Bradley (16-14) at Missouri State (9-21)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 2, 8:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: JQH Arena (11,000) -- Springfield, Missouri. Television: None. Home Record: Bradley 12-4, Missouri State 7-7. Away Record: Bradley 4-8, Missouri State 2-12. Neutral Record: Bradley 0-2, Missouri State 0-2. Conference Record: Bradley 7-10, Missouri State 6-11. Series Record: Missouri State leads, 30-18.
GAMES NOTES: The Bradley Braves and Missouri State Bears will jostle for positioning in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament seedings when they clash at the JQH Arena on Saturday night.
The Braves are trying to bounce back from an 80-62 setback against Creighton on Wednesday. Bradley owns a 16-14 overall record but at 7-10 is currently tied with Drake for seventh in the conference standings. Though they are just a game back of Illinois State, the Braves can't hope to rise any higher than seventh due to MVC tiebreaker procedures. If Drake also wins on Saturday, Bradley would fall to the eighth seed due to its inferior RPI ranking which is how tiebreakers are decided in the MVC among teams that split the season series.
Missouri State has lost three of its last four games to fall to 9-21 overall and 6-11 in league action. The Bears' overall record is the worst in the MVC. Despite that the Bears still have an outside shot at the seventh spot in the league standings as a win in this contest and a loss by Drake would push the Bears up since they beat the Bulldogs twice this season.
Walt Lemon Jr. scored 20 points to lead Bradley to a 69-66 victory in a tightly contested bout in the first meetings between these teams this season. The win ended a four-game winning streak for Missouri State in the all-time series which the Bears lead, 30-18.
Even though the Braves were playing on their home floor they were severely outplayed by Creighton. The battle on the inside is where the game was won as the Bluejays had sizable advantages in rebounds (41-20), points in the paint (34-26) and second-chance points (14-3).
Lemon (15.5 ppg, 3.5 apg) was once again the lead scorer in the loss to Creighton as he paced Bradley with 17 points. The 6-foot-3 guard has scored in double figures in all but one league game, while reaching at least 17 points in six of the last seven. Dyricus Simms-Edwards (12.6 ppg) is another double- digit scorer in the backcourt. Lemon and Simms-Edwards are also difficult to deal with on the defensive end as they are the top two players in the MVC in steals. Tyshon Pickett (11.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg) is the top producer in the frontcourt where the Braves are decidedly weak.
Missouri State was also embarrassed its last time on the court as it fell in an 86-50 decision to Illinois State on Wednesday night. The Bears shot just 37.5 percent from the floor in the game and were outscored by massive margins from beyond the arc (30-9) and the free-throw line (18-5).
It's no secret why the Bears haven't fared better this season. Missouri State has been the worst offensive team in the MVC across the board. The Bears rank last in the league in most offensive categories, including points (59.4 pg), assists (10.3 pg) and field-goal percentage (.404). They are also the worst rebounding team in the league bringing in just 30 boards a game. Anthony Downing (13.7 ppg) and Marcus Marshall (10.8 ppg) are the two leading scoring threats though each is shooting just above 40 percent from the field. The Bears are also a shallow team up front with Keith Pickens (5.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg) the best option.
This game will be won and lost in the backcourt since neither team has much to brag about in the paint. Lemon is the best player in that regard and he and Simms-Edwards pack enough offensive punch to put the Bears down.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Bradley 68, Missouri State 64
03/02 10:33:41 ET