News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 14, 2014

MVC notebook: Top scorers carrying losing teams

Todd Golden
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — What can you make out of the fact that the Missouri Valley Conference’s top four scorers are on men’s basketball teams that are a combined 4-12 in league play so far?

It’s not any kind of comment on those players, of course, but it speaks volumes about the lack of help they have on their own teams.

Evansville’s D.J. Balentine is currently the leading scorer in the MVC at 22.4 points per game. Following Balentine on the list are Southern Illinois’ Desmar Jackson (20.7), Drake’s Richard Carter (17.9) and Bradley’s Walt Lemon Jr. (17.1).

Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early (16.6) — ranked fifth — is the first player on the scoring list on a winning MVC team.

In the case of the top quartet, save perhaps Carter, their support is minimal, so they carry the load. All have attempts at least 90 shots.

Jackson (121), Balentine (117) and Lemon (112) are the only MVC players who have exceeded the century mark in shots attempted. Jackson (48.8 percent) is the only player among them to rank in the top 10 in MVC shooting percentage.

In the case of Bradley, SIU and especially Evansville, the next-highest scorer averages at least five points per game less than their leader does. For the Aces, Balentine averages nearly 12 more points per game than their next leading scorer and is Evansville’s only double-digit scorer.

Each of the top four have taken different routes to their scoring prowess. Lemon has been established as Bradley’s go-to scorer for at least two seasons. Jackson came to SIU via Wyoming where he performed a similar role there.

Balentine and Carter have emerged from the shadows. Balentine from that of former teammate Colt Ryan, who graduated last season as the Purple Aces’ all-time scoring leader.

“It helped him to watch Colt Ryan and how he handled his business. He’s a scorer. He’s a scorer when he got here and he can do it in a lot of different ways,” Evansville coach Marty Simmons said.

Carter has emerged under first-year coach Ray Giacoletti. The sophomore averaged 9.2 points during his freshman campaign when Mark Phelps coached the Bulldogs. Carter had more support earlier in the season when Gary Ricks (12.3) was healthy. He still has Jordan Daniels (15.4) to play off of.

“Richard is understanding that he doesn’t need to score all of the time. His biggest job is to try and make his teammates better. He’s trying to buy-in and do that and mix in his opportunities to score,” Drake coach Ray Giacoletti said.

Carter had 29 points in ISU’s 77-73 win at Drake on Jan. 8.

Notes — Bradley didn’t get a break from the MVC schedule-makers. Three of the Braves’ first five games were on the road against teams with a combined 22-0 home record. … Drake has held 14 of 16 opponents under their season field-goal percentage. … Evansville ended a long drought with its 75-69 victory at SIU Arena last Saturday. It was the Aces’ first win in Carbondale, Ill. since 2001. … Illinois State is 5-0 against in-state teams this season. … Loyola freshman Milton Doyle leads the Ramblers in scoring (14.6), assists (3.2) and steals (3.1). … UNI’s Nate Buss (10.3) has come off the bench in all games for the Panthers this season. If he maintains his double-digit scoring average, he’ll be the first UNI player off the bench to do it since Tony Brus did so in 1998. … SIU’s Mike Balogun makes his 3-pointers in streaks. After not making a 3-pointer for a month, he made five against Evansville last Saturday. He started the season 1-for-11 and then made 6 of 8 against Chicago State. … Wichita State guard Fred VanVleet went four games without turning the ball over. He had two against Missouri State last Saturday.