MVC Monday: Balentine earns weekly award

—Missouri Valley Conference teams are 55-29 overall this season (seventh-best league winning percentage in Division I) with a 12-11 combined road record. Those 12 wins are more than any BCS-affiliated conference.

—Creighton junior Doug McDermott averaged 28.5 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in a pair of double-digit Bluejays victories to claim player of the week honors. UE freshman D.J. Balentine scored 15 points per game against Miami (Ohio) and Murray State to earn newcomer of the week honors, the first men’s basketball weekly award the Aces have received this season.

—The MVC plays four games this week against major-conference competition: Wichita State-Tennessee, Northern Iowa-Iowa, Drake-Iowa State and Creighton-California. Wichita State (2-0) and Creighton (3-0) haven’t lost this season to programs from a BCS-affiliated league.

The Standings:

1. Wichita State (9-0): With a win over Tennessee, the Shockers would be off to their best start in program history at 10-0 and likely solidify a spot in both national polls. Wichita State came in at No. 23 in the Associated Press poll this week but is unranked by coaches. As of Monday, the Shockers were one of 14 undefeated teams left in Division I.

2. Creighton (9-1): The Bluejays, 16th in the AP poll and 13th in coaches, continue to roll behind junior Doug McDermott, who improved upon his career 3-point accuracy this week of 45.8 percent. Creighton also saw senior Josh Jones pass out before last Thursday’s game against Nebraska. Jones is out of the hospital now but remains sidelined indefinitely.

3. Bradley (6-2): Off a 7-25 season, the Braves are exceeding expectations by spreading around their 75.4 points per game of team offense. Bradley has four players averaging double figures and six who score at least 9.6 points per game, led by junior Walt Lemon Jr.’s 13.5.

4. Illinois State (6-3): If the Redbirds score 70 points this season, its’ safe to say they’ll win. If not, they lose. Illinois State is 6-0 when topping the 70-point mark, recently reinforcing the trend with Saturday’s 85-63 victory over Western Michigan. The Redbirds are also undefeated when they force more turnovers than opponents.

T4. Northern Iowa (6-3): The Panthers have won 10 straight games at their home McLeod Center, with their three losses this season coming against a stacked Battle 4 Atlantis field during Thanksgiving week. Since then they’ve won three straight, extending the winning streak with Saturday’s overtime win against George Mason.

6. Southern Illinois (4-2): Under first-year coach Barry Hinson, the Salukis have improved in two key areas: points in transition and in the paint. Southern Illinois is shooting 48.4 percent in the paint and outscoring opponents 232-144 on close-range attempts. The Salukis also have a 62-21 edge this season in transition points.

7. Indiana State (4-3): With three games in as many days coming at the Diamond Head Classic from Dec. 22-24, the Sycamores have scheduled lightly, playing one game a week for the last three weeks. Indiana State has lost two straight on back-to-back Saturdays, most recently a 71-63 defeat at Morehead State.

8. Evansville (5-4): The Aces dropped their second game in three tries Saturday to Murray State despite 16 points in the first seven minutes from senior Ned Cox. UE should keep its record above .500, however, as the Aces host Alabama State on Saturday and Oakland City the following Tuesday.

9. Drake (4-4): When Drake hosts Iowa State on Saturday, the Bulldogs will look for back-to-back wins for the first time all season off last weekend’s 74-64 victory over IPFW. The Bulldogs are one of the nation’s top shooting teams from beyond the arc, as they hit 42.6 percent of 3-pointers and average 9.4 makes a game.

10. Missouri State (2-7): With last Saturday’s loss to 22nd-ranked Oklahoma State, the Bears still don’t have a win over a Division I opponent this season. History is on their side, however, when they play Valparaiso this weekend. Missouri State has a 7-0 record all-time in BracketBusters Challenge return games.

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