Today In The Valley (Jan. 31)
Indiana State (4-17; 2-8, 10th) vs. Northern Iowa (15-6; 9-1, 1st)
Hulman Center; Terre Haute, Indiana
These guys just keep winning. Northern Iowa seem to find a way to win almost every MVC game they have played this year. That’s right … almost. The one team that was able to knock off the Panthers in Valley play this year has been the Sycamores from Indiana State. In a double overtime thriller back on December 28th, the MVC opener for both squads, Indiana State was able to outlast the Panthers by a final of 85-84.
Since that game the Panthers have been unstoppable. They have been playing aggressive, tough defense, and have found ways to win every game. Ben Jacobsen, Valley Coach of the Year in my opinion, has been able to adjust the Panthers’ plan of attack during games that allow his team to use their strengths to beat opponents every which way. They are not flashy, nor are they Blue Chip recruits of top-level talent. They are simply well coached and play tough, something Jay Bilas holds in high regard.
As for the Sycamores, their Valley story is a bit different. Since that conference-opening win over UNI, they have gone a dismal 1-8, placing them in last place in the conference. They have shown signs of life staying in games, but as I have said before, they seem to all end the same way … with a loss.
The Trees proved they can beat the Panthers, even on the road, but can they do it twice in the same season? I say yes. On a day when fans from French Lick and all places in Indiana will honor the 1979 national runner-up Sycamores, they’ll be partying after an upset in Terre Haute!
Creighton Otter: Indiana State
Panon: Northern Iowa
Dance Cam Guy: Indiana State
~ Dance Cam Guy
Illinois State (17-4; 6-4, t-3rd) vs. Bradley (13-8; 7-3, 2nd)
Redbird Arena; Normal, Illinois
Bradley versus Illinois State is always a heated rivalry. The “Interstate 74” game has had its great moments over the years, but the one that is fresh in everyone’s mind is Bradley knocking off then-undefeated Illinois State in an early conference matchup. The Braves were able to get a great crowd and were ready for the Redbirds. But the season has evolved a bit now, and both teams are showing the ability to play with anyone in the Valley.
Illinois State, as we all know, was able to go undefeated in the early half of the year due in part to a low strength of schedule in non-conference play. They began MVC play with a ton of confidence, blew out opponents, and then were smacked in the face by Bradley. Since that game, the Redbirds have gone 3-3, including losses to Indiana State and Wichita State, two of the weaker teams in the MVC this year.
Bradley, in similar fashion, has gone 3-3 since that fateful night as well, with their wins coming against Indiana State (twice) and Wichita State. Because the Braves, and not the Redbirds, were able to win the games they were in all likelihood supposed to, they now sit one spot ahead of the Redbirds in second place.
The way the Valley has been beating itself up this year, I would not be surprised at all to see yet another log jam at second place, with two of those teams being Bradley and ISU. This one could get ugly, as I know those Redbirds want revenge.
Creighton Otter: Illinois State
Panon: Illinois State
Dance Cam Guy: Illinois State
~ Dance Cam Guy
Wichita State (9-12; 3-7, 8th) vs. Drake (14-8; 5-5, t-5th)
Koch Arena; Wichita, Kansas
The Fox Sports cameras will be pointed on two teams coming off losses in this afternoon matchup between Drake and Wichita State. The Bulldogs own a win already this year against the Shox, and Drake owns 4 straight wins in the series.
To win on the road this afternoon, Mark Phelps’ Blue Dogs will need to avoid coughing up a lead late like they did to Evansville on Thursday afternoon. What seemed like a sure win with 5 minutes to play turned into a heartbreaking defeat as Iowa native Kaylon Williams drained a 40-foot 3-pointer as time expired to break a tie and send the Purple Aces to a season sweep over DU. Jonathon Cox (14 points, 9 rebounds) and Josh Young (16 points, 5 rebounds) got theirs, but it wasn’t enough to get the Bulldogs a split of the season series with UE.
Last weekend, Drake didn’t allow the home crowd in Omaha get behind the Bluejays and provide energy to a team that feeds off support from the fans. They’ll need to do the same today to have a chance at winning in Wichita, as Shox fans seem to lift the Black and Gold squad to victories almost by themselves. The Shox will try to build off the home crowd, with freshman Toure Murry leading the way offensively.
Defense will be the most important ingredient this afternoon. WSU doesn’t shoot the ball particularly well, and Drake’s offensive weapons are somewhat limited. If the Shox can hold Young and Cox in check, the home team should prevail and work their way further out of the MVC basement.
Creighton Otter: Wichita State
Panon: Wichita State
Dance Cam Guy: Wichita State
~ Creighton Otter
Evansville (13-7; 5-5, t-5th) vs. Southern Illinois (10-11; 5-5, t-5th)
Roberts Stadium; Evansville, Indiana
In a three-way tie for 5th place, the loser here will be on a fast track to play in a dreaded Thursday night game in St. Louis.
Move over Ryan Sears, you have company. In the Salukis’ win over Missouri State, Bryan Mullins became just the second player in the more than 100 years of the conference to chalk up 500 career assists and 250 steals. Impressive numbers for the senior.
Evansville’s win over Drake was delayed a day due to weather. It didn't affect the Purple Aces. They used a 10-0 run to steal a win in Des Moines. Down 62-55 with over three minutes to play, they won the game on a Kaylon Williams 40-foot 3-pointer.
After winning their first 10 home games the Purple Aces now have lost two consecutive (to UNI and Creighton). It will be tough for them to regain their old magic at home tonight. Winners of 5 of their last 7, the Salukis are rebounding after their slow conference start. Former Valley coach of the year C-Lo is molding this team together nicely.
Creighton Otter: Southern Illinois
Panon: Southern Illinois
Dance Cam Guy: Southern Illinois