Luke Treat

Bears Climb Back To First Place

In College Basketball on February 10, 2011 at 2:01 am

The MSU Bears overcame a sloppy first half effort and beat the Bradley Braves 77-69 Wednesday night at JQH Arena. Forward Kyle Weems tied his season high 27 points as the Bears drained 13 shots beyond the arc shooting 48.9% from the field — their best in seven games. The Bears now share the first place bragging rights in the Valley with Wichita State.

 

Weems led the Bears in scoring with 27 points.

More after the jump…

Not to be a ‘Debbie-Downer’ here, but the Bears statistically lost this game. And I realize the past several columns I have been a bit tough on these guys, but as I’ve said before, this team has the look and feel of tournament team — they just need to start playing like one. (As much as I’ve hated on sports cliches why do I keep using them?)

Will Creekmore had 12 of the Bears 14 points in the paint — The Braves had 46. Center Isiah Rhine’s dunk in the second half chipped in the other two points. Creekmore is a man-child in the paint. Okay, we know this, we expect this, etc. The Bears have to find ways to penetrate and get those hard earned points inside. Instead, they continue to do their best Harlem Globetrotters passing weave rendition until they find an open 3-point look. All too often the Bears spacing on offense can be likened to a mosh pit — They have to be more disciplined, spread the court, and run the offense. Point guard Nafis Ricks can move the ball well if his teammates will be patient and let the plays develop.

The bench finally awoke tonight; MSU scored 13 points while BU scored 11. The previous two games, the Bears had been outscored 46-15 in points off the bench. The Bears have to get between 12-20 points off the bench every game to supply much needed rest to the legs of the starting five. Guard Nathan Scheer, whom I’ve been the harshest toward of any of the Bears, finally put it all together and knocked down three 3-pointers with a couple of nice passes. Guard Nick Valla has also been contributing nicely, and even got a write-up in the News-Leader for his play off the bench. Centers Caleb Patterson and Isiah Rhine give Creekmore breathers but are too inconsistent to play for any lengthy stretch. Patterson can hit the three, mid-range jumper, but struggles under the basket. Isiah Rhine has a solid presence inside with monster dunks and blocked shots, but isn’t quick enough to compete with more athletic players.

The Bears are sixth in the nation in turnovers (that’s the sixth lowest) and up until the Evansville game the Bears just flat out didn’t turn the ball over. Since their defeat to the Purple Ace’s (as if losing to the Purple Ace’s isn’t an embarrassment in itself… C’mon. Purple Ace’s? Evansville needs a redo in the team name department.) the Bears have lost their touch with the turnover battle. The defense already is a  ‘work-in-progress’ (to put it kindly) and added turnovers do not help.

After back-to-back losses against UNI and Evansville, the Bears responded to their self-created adversity, the stars aligned (UNI lost two straight, and WSU lost to Southern Illinois), and somehow the Bears are back in first place in the Valley. In short, MSU is lucky to bounce back into first place after three conference losses in less than three weeks. The time to ‘let’s see’ has now changed to the time to  ‘we have to do’. Now is the time to go back to the gym and get pissed off. Now is the time to get Adam Leonard’s 3-point stroke back. Now is the time to fix their vulnerably penetrable defense. Now is the time to not play Jermaine Mallet and Leonard 37 minutes a game. Now is the time for Cuonzo Martin to brew up whatever potion he has in his office and put in the team’s water cooler. Now is the time for separation from the Valley.  Not next week, not two games from now, and not at the Valley tournament.

Now.

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