Get to the point
It's a fine season for point guards in the MVC, and the teams with experienced point guards are winning. None of that is surprising, but it's worth pointing out again how important it is to have a steady hand running a team.
Creighton coach Dana Altman made mention of that after Saturday's win over Wichita State. Shocker guard Clevin Hannah played a mere 19 minutes, and his absence disrupted WSU's plans. Altman, who misses his steady guy (Josh Dotzler) from last season, understands.
"You look at those teams that are winning, those experienced point guards are really playing well," Altman said. "Hannah, he's been special this year."
First-place Northern Iowa goes with junior Kwadzo Ahelegbe, a fullback who gave WSU fits with his drives to the basket on Tuesday. Illinois State has senior Lloyd Phillips, one of the most athletic guards in the MVC. Altman is still searching for his leader. He went with senior Cavel Witter, who isn't a true point guard, over sophomore Antoine Young, for much of the second half against WSU. Young is not a good free-throw shooter, an issue that hurt the Bluejays during their slumps this season.
At Missouri State, coach Cuonzo Martin recently inserted senior Justin Fuehermeyer into the starting lineup. Fuehermeyer leads the MVC in assist-to-turnover ratio, followed by Hannah, Young and Phillips. Indiana State's Harry Marshall is a good player in a difficult situation with the depleted Sycamores. Southern Illinois sophomore Kevin Dillard leads the MVC with an average of 5.3 assists.
Drake, among teams contending for the top half of the MVC, may face the biggest problem at point guard. When senior Craig Stanley joined the starters, the Bulldogs improved. Stanley is expected to miss around three weeks after surgery on his right wrist. Sophomore Frank Wiseler, who redshirted last season, is on the spot.
"We miss him a lot," coach Mark Phelps said. "Craig has a real role on our team with his quickness, and being a senior."
* Hannah take his streak of 42 consecutive free throws (seventh in MVC history) into Saturday's game at Drake. Bradley's James Gillingham, with 44, is ahead of Hannah on the MVC's list. Missouri State's Blake Ahearn holds the MVC record, making 60 straight twice in his career. Ahearn is also fourth on the list with a streak of 51 straight. The NCAA record for consecutive free throws is 85, by Butler's Darnell Archey over two seasons. Villanova's Gary Buchanan made 73 straight during the 2000-01 season.
* WSU ended the seventh-longest win streak in MVC history with Tuesday's 60-51 win over No. 20 Northern Iowa. The Shockers cut down the MVC's longest streak, Cincinnati's run of 37 straight in 1961-62.
* Don't quit on Indiana State. The Sycamores trailed Missouri State by 24 points with 14 minutes remaining in Tuesday's game. Then they made eight three-pointers in the final 10 minutes and forced overtime. Missouri State won 99-92. At Bradley, Indiana State trailed by 16 at halftime. Again, it forced overtime before losing 91-85. "Obviously, I like the character of our team, but these moral comebacks don't do us any good in the win-loss column or for our mental state," Indiana State coach Kevin McKenna told the Terre Haute Tribune-Star.
* Northern Iowa missed 11 of its 13 three-pointers against WSU, continuing a trend for the Panthers. They are shooting 31.6 percent from three-point in MVC games, ninth-worst in the conference. UNI made 40.3 percent of its threes in non-conference games.
What to watch
Missouri State at Creighton, 7 p.m., Sunday (ESPNU, Ch. 244) —The middle of the MVC will be a little less crowded by the end of this weekend. The Bears don't know much success in Omaha. They have one win in their past nine trips to Nebraska.
Keep an eye on
Indiana State guard Harry Marshall is keeping an injury-ravaged team competitive. The Sycamores are missing guards Jake Kelly (out for the season with a knee injury) and leading scorer Dwayne Lathan (who has missed four games with a leg injury). In their absence, Marshall scored 19 against Evansville, 29 against Wichita State, 11 against Northern Iowa and 21 against Missouri State. Marshall does much of his damage at the line — he is 24 of 27 in those four games.
In their words
"I've been coming here for nine years now. The crowd just doesn't change. That's a real credit to the community and the crowd here. It's a big-time basketball environment,"
_ Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson after Tuesday's loss at Wichita State