It had all the makings of a trap game, and it certainly lived up to it. Missouri State struggled for about a half, then used a 9-0 run early in the second half to take out Evansville 65-50 in a Missouri Valley Conference game Jan. 7 at JQH Arena. Now comes the much-anticipated showdown between preseason No. 1 pick Wichita State (13-2, 4-0) and No. 2 Missouri State (12-3, 4-0), Sunday, Jan. 9, 7:35 p.m. Winner has the inside track on the Valley’s regular season championship.
That showdown may have lost some luster had it not been for freshman Nathan Scheer, who poured in a career-high 14 points thanks to 4-for-5 shooting from 3-point range. Three of those treys came in the first 11:05 of the second half to help the Bears put the game out of reach. The first one came early, following a pair of buckets by Kyle Weems, to push MSU’s lead to 8. The third came with 8:55 to play and, after UE had closed to within 7, put the Bears up by double digits to stay.
It’s not an surprising performance for the 6-foot-4 wing, who had the rep of a good shooter, but it’s an important one for Missouri State. Everyone knows about the Bears’ returning talents, and they will all draw plenty of attention from Valley defenses. So here’s your potential X-Factor. If he’s on – or even if he just becomes a legitimate threat – other teams will not be able to slack off him to pay extra attention to guys like Weems, or Adam Leonard, or Jermaine Mallett. Scoring depth will be crucial in a stretch run, and Scheer just might be the answer.
Valley teams will be taking notice. His presence was a factor in the win at Creighton, and now his shooting has been a factor too. Let’s see how the freshman handles the bright lights of the Valley.
Now comes the showdown. No doubt this one is huge, but, as MSU play-by-play legend Art Haines pointed out, the Bears are playing with house money. They’ve already picked up wins at Creighton and UNI, the two teams picked right below MSU and WSU. Any team in the Valley take a 2-1 record on that road swing, so the Bears have nothing to lose (sorry for the cliche).
But they have to play like it. Missouri State has trailed at halftime in two of its four league wins, and led by a combined three points in the other two. This is clearly a second half team, and that’s okay…but not at Wichita State. This is the league’s toughest road environment, bar none, and an early deficit in front of a vicious, fired up, Wichita crowd is a recipe for disaster. Coach Cuonzo Martin and his squad have got to figure out a way to be close, or even ahead, at the break. There will be no wiping out an 11-point deficit on the road tomorrow night.
Highlights, from KSPR 33: Bears trump Aces for 4-0 Valley start
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