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2007 Missouri Valley Tournament Recap: Day 2

by Andrew Force | March 2nd, 2007

#1 Southern Illinois 71, # 9 Drake 59

The Southern Illinois basketball team goes about their business with a quiet confidence. Their manner is never too high and never too low. The senior leaders Jamaal Tatum and Tony Young, whether infuriated or elated keep cool-headed demeanors.

“When you have good seniors like we have in Jamaal and Tony, good upper classmen like Randal and Matt [Shaw] and Bryan Mullins who’s beyond his years…we have a chance,” knows Head Coach Chris Lowery.

Friday night facing recent 101-point scoring Drake University, the Salukis capitalized on that chance. With 36 combined from Tatum and Young, SIU ended the Drake dream 71-59.

Young came out aggressively like he did in SIU’s early February win against Bradley. Jamaal Tatum entered that night with a deep thigh bruise and only managed six minutes. In his absence, Tony set a personal season-high with 25 points.

“Being here, you obviously have to have the ability to score,” viewed Young. “In certain situations ‘No one else hit a shot, alright it’s my turn.’”

As per usual SIU suffered through a number of dead spots including the middle stages of the second half. The saving grace, Matt Shaw was the only Dawg able to convince the scoreboard operator to change SIU’s tally.

Shaw hit six straight free throws, nudging his team to 56 points with 5:01 to play. He made 10-11 from the charity stripe for the game exhibiting his shot that looks like a 13-year old built it in industrial tech class. They try really hard, but you can’t tell what the hell it is.

The Bulldogs closed to within nine points at 56-47, but Tony Young wiggled into the lane with three left on the shot clock. Using outstanding awareness, he found JT for a baseline floater and one. Game over.

The tournament favorite won its 17th straight game against Drake. A DU team that has scored more than 80 points nine times was held to 59, 12 of which were garbage points.

“We hang out together all the time,” admitted Klayton Korver. “We do everything together. We go to the movies together and we play Mario Kart together.” The Bulldogs made the biggest fashion statement of the weekend together too.

All the DU players shaved their heads. Guards Nick Grant and Leonard Houston left some hair… mohawks.

A zany play occurred midway through the opening half on a Drake outlet pass to Grant. Randal Falker, suddenly a cornerback, extended his arm to barely tip the ball. DU guard Grant lost all chance at the basket after the deflection. His only play was to save the ball under the basket into Falker’s tummy. Running himself Falker caught and spiked the ball off Grant’s back. The entire play took four seconds, but displayed the extraordinary reactions of these athletes.

The Salukis feature above average athletes that basically play better basketball than foes. As Coach Lowery acknowledges, “It scares people when they play us because we can score on the end of the shot clock and we can hold you on your end of the shot clock.”

SIU now faces Bradley, a team they split with earlier in the year 46-48 and 60-50.

#4 Bradley 51, #5 Northern Iowa 48

The topic is will.

What separates good players from memorable players?

There is a reason the most talented players do not always win the Naismith Trophy.
That old slogan, your attitude not your aptitude decides your altitude, plays a part in the answer.

Talent gets a player only so far. Memorable players piggy-back the rest of the way on drive and determination. In short…will.

Will won the game Friday afternoon for Bradley, 51-48.

Franklin, the starting off-guard for the Braves epitomizes that elusive trait. Member of the 2007 MVC Most-Improved Team, he grasped an off-season opportunity with full effort. Departed players meant increased playing time for someone. “Will” isn’t the middle name of that someone.

It is his first.

After holding for the last shot Will Franklin hit a slightly off-kilter step-back three-pointer to boost BU into a MVC Semifinal tussle with Southern Illinois University.

SIU is the other Valley team Franklin beat at the buzzer this year. Head Coach Jim Les recalled, “The last play didn’t quite go as we drew it up but I have great confidence in him.”

Northern Iowa took forever getting started. The UNI faithful stood for 5+ minutes ceremoniously awaiting the first Panther basket. Grant Stout was the only Panther who bothered to show up. He took one-third of N. Iowa’s 1st half attempts.

Stout’s typical partner in crime, Eric Coleman, had a decidedly poor game. Brooding throughout his 27 minutes, Coleman frequently appeared despondent and downright pouty. He shot 3-9 from the floor and allowed an uncharacteristically-active J.J. Tauai to zoom around him. The oft-deferring Tauai donned the slasher cape, darting around EC three times in the game’s final chapter.

All in all, BU executed supremely. Its “umbrella” offense (4 out, 1 semi-in) featured only five scorers, none of which was taller than 6’5”.

Before the SIU-Bradley affair, Braves’ coach Jim Less speculated, “I believed last year’s team was one of the 65 best teams in the country. I believe they belong again.”

Where there is a will there is a way.

#2 Creighton 59, #10 Indiana State 38

The After dinner special was anything but. Creighton uprooted the Sycamores of Indiana State, 59-38.

ISU “had a tough win last night, and eventually we thought we could wear them down. We got in a little bit of a rhythm…and the rest is history,” said CU guard Nate Funk.

History of the drab nature that bores the mess out of high school students.

Indiana State tried many different things. Ten different players entered and Adam Arnold changed his shoes midgame. The least disguised ISU change will be the firing of Head Coach Royce Waltman.

In a leak-friendly environment, the ISU Board of Trustees announced Waltman’s impending ousting at a meeting. The “official” announcement was expected first thing Saturday morning despite as Royce put it, “every man, woman, and child in Terre Haute [knew] I’m fired,” a week ago.

The ordinarily folksy, clever Waltman had plenty to say after the game. When asked about his future in coaching, RW responded, “I can’t get a head coaching job. If you get fired for cheating, you can get hired right back again. If you get fired for losing, it’s like you’ve got leprosy.”

Indiana State finished the year 13-18, which pre-Waltman “would have been cause for a ticker tape parade through town.”

“It’s ironic, you know,” said Waltman. “You have success and you build expectations.”

Creighton’s win held all the tension of a downed power wire. Funk led all scorers with 14 points. Anthony Tolliver helped with 11 points and three blocks.

Improving to 20-10, CU draws #3 Missouri State in the semifinals.

#3 Missouri State 67, #6 Wichita State 64

I love you
You love me
We’re a happy
family…

Silly to adults, the theme song for Barney and Friends, is ear candy to children. Is it possible such a giddy anthem embodies the Missouri State Bears?

“I love my players,” powerfully stated the victorious MSU Head Coach Barry Hinson late Friday night. Men vocalizing love for one another?

The words slide off the tongue easily. When the meaning soaks in, you have a team as unselfish as the Bears, winners 67-64 over Wichita State.

They pass up a good shot for a great shot. That extra pass deflects the glory, yet helps the team. A big help to the team is newcomer, Mizzou-transfer Spencer Laurie. His line, three assists, no turnovers illustrates the point guard’s steadiness.

Laurie made some very innovative dimmers that failed to find their target too. His foresight exceeds teammates’ vision. In other words, the passes went where the player should be…his mates just didn’t sense it.

Starting the second half, Spencer had a splendid drop-off to Drew Richards. Richards had a nice night with eight points and three blocks. His height complimented the activity of Nathan Bilyeu and Deven Mitchell in the post defense department.

Against the rotating trio, WSU managed just 12 points in the paint.

Automatic.

Remember that old-timer harping on the difficulty of driving years ago. The horrific era of manual transmission and no power steering existed.

Then everything changed with the onset of automatic transmission. Presentday drivers might as well put their feet up. Car travel became so much easier.

As noted, scoring inside was hard-going. Making everything easier for WSU, an absolutely automatic Matt Brauer kept the Shockers in the game with timely three’s. WSU made a season-high 13 triples.

The point guard even enabled WSU to burst ahead to a 7-0 start. Because of the effort on Kyle Wilson, Brauer made five of his first six three-pointers. Wilson led the team in scoring on the season, but struggled to get his seven game points Friday night.

Tied late at 60-60, Missouri State showed off its own automatism. The nation’s best free throw shooter three year’s running, Blake Ahearn and Mitchell dropped a pair each from the line.

Under a minute remained when a trailing WSU squad (66-64) coaxed Tyler Chaney into an errant 15-footer.

Already failing on the offensive end in the post…Wichita State got bullied out of their own paint. They lost the rebound to a surging Bilyeu, who split the pair of subsequent FT’s.

Who do you go to down three with 15 seconds left and no timeouts?

Mr. Automatic, of course.

“I looked up and I had about 4.8 seconds or so,” Brauer recalled. “I figured the best shot was to get myself open a little.” MB pump-faked and hoisted his seventh three-pointer of the night.

Brauer said, “As soon as I shot it, I knew it was long.”

A miss. Then a crumpled man fell to the floor emotionally drained with his spirit disengaged.

Mr. Automatic was no more. It took a male cheerleader and an assistant coach to manually propel Brauer off the floor.

Basketball is a winner’s game. The loser is immediately forgotten Maybe so, but Shocker Matt Brauer will never forget that shot.

The winners had plenty of love to go around. “You go back and you look at all the newspaper articles and they don’t ever talk about themselves,” beamed Coach Hinson. “They talk about everybody else but themselves.”

The players so blatantly care about each other, battling through pain for the cause.

“To see a guy like Deven Mitchell that plays in pain, that wakes up with it every day, spends more time in treatment than he does on the court to have a game like he did tonight and then turn around and thank his teammates” Hinson gushed, “It’s a blessing to me.”

Maybe this love thing has a future in basketball. The 2006-2007 Missouri State Bears sure do.
–Andrew Force

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