MVC Monday: Bradley’s Lemon top player heading into UE game

mvclogo—The Missouri Valley Conference named Bradley’s Walt Lemon Jr. it’s Player of the Week on Monday after the guard averaged 18 points, six assists and three rebounds last week. Lemon, a 6-foot-3 junior, hit a running 25-footer as time expired to give the Braves a 69-66 victory over Missouri State as they had into a 7:05 p.m. Wednesday matchup against UE at the Ford Center.

—Off Wichita State’s upset of Creighton, senior guard Malcolm Armstead earned MVC Newcomer of the Week recognition. He averaged 12.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists in wins over the Bluejays as well as the Shockers’ victory against Illinois State. Armstead originally came alive versus UE despite losing to the Aces. He tallied a season-high 21 points in 32 minutes in that game.

—The MVC’s league ranking in the NCAA’s latest ratings percentage index is ninth, with three members in the RPI top 50: Wichita State (15th), Creighton (22nd) and Indiana State (47th). UE, on a two-game losing streak, is 105th after rising to as high as 78th last week.

The Standings:

1. Creighton (17-2, 6-1): The Bluejays, as Wichita State proved last Saturday, can be beaten. But where else will Creighton see a road environment like the Shockers’ Koch Arena? Certainly not when it matters — at Arch Madness. Bluejays fans could create a home environment at the MVC tournament.

T1. Wichita State (17-2, 6-1): With that Creighton win, Wichita is 57-6 when playing in Koch Arena and has won home games in a row. The Aces don’t play their revenge game in Wichita until Feb. 27. Senior Carl Hall is back from injury, by the way, and matched his career-high with 13 rebounds against Creighton to go with 17 points, both team highs.

3. Indiana State (12-6, 5-2): UE fell to one of the MVC’s hottest teams last Saturday, as the Sycamores have won six of eight dating back to a Dec. 24 overtime victory of Miami, a team that’s fourth in the RPI.

4. Bradley (12-7, 4-3): Under second-year coach Geno Ford, the Braves are among the top-five most-improved teams in Division I. Bradley won just seven games overall last season and two in MVC play. The Braves enter Wednesday’s game at UE 12-7 overall and 4-3 in conference.

T4. Evansville (11-8, 4-3): UE’s four seniors — Colt Ryan, Ned Cox, Lewis Jones and Troy Taylor — have scored 342 of the Aces’ 481 points (71.1 percent) in MVC games. But that foursome hasn’t shot well enough in the second half over the last week, when UE blew leads to both Drake and Indiana State.

T6. Missouri State (5-14, 3-4): After winning two of three to start MVC play, the Bears have now lost three in a row. But they’re still trying to figure things out, as coach Paul Lusk has used 10 different starting lineups in 19 games this season.

T6. Northern Iowa (10-9, 3-4): The Panthers started their season on streaks — three wins, followed by three losses, and then three wins. Since dropping a Dec. 19 decision at UNLV, Northern Iowa has rotated wins and losses — no consistent trends for the near-.500 Panthers.

8. Drake (8-10, 2-5): The Bulldogs have their 3-point touch back. They’re connecting on 38.8 percent of shots from behind the arc, a rate that’s second in the MVC behind only Creighton and 19th in Division I.

9. Southern Illinois (8-10, 1-6): The Salukis have lost five of six entering Wednesday’s game at Northern Iowa. Six-foot-1 senior Jeff Early does lead the nation in rebounds for players his height and shorter with 7.8 boards a game. UE’s Troy Taylor is second at 7.4.

10. Illinois State (10-9, 1-6): Senior Tyler Brown (15.6 ppg) is back from suspension, and after a 12-point loss at Wichita State the Redbirds finally notched an MVC victory Sunday over Southern Illinois. UE travels to face a full-strength Illinois State team this weekend.

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