For a team carrying a 13-7 overall record, one might expect wins and losses to be pretty evenly dispersed across an overall impressive season (though with a little bit more consistency desired).
Not so with the Missouri State Lady Bears, whose most recent loss came in a wire-to-wire showdown with then-No. 21 Gonzaga on Dec. 16. An undefeated showing at the Roo Holiday Classic ended a five-game losing streak and notched the Lady Bears their second and third wins. Then, apparently deciding they like winning, the Lady Bears haven’t stopped yet.
Though Missouri State is currently on a 12-game winning streak — tied for the second-longest in the nation after Oregon’s 14 — number 11 had to have been the sweetest of the bunch. That’s the victory from one week ago where the Lady Bears stormed into Des Moines, handed the Drake Bulldogs their first conference loss since 2016 and cemented their place at the top of the Missouri Valley Conference standings.
Then again, win number 12 against Northern Iowa gave the Lady Bears the coveted Iowa sweep, as they became the first MVC team to beat both Drake and UNI on the road since 2014. As the conference season edges past the halfway point, everything’s coming up Missouri State. The Lady Bears now own a 16-game MVC streak that they’ll put to the test tonight against Southern Illinois.
But Drake, the team whose nearly three-year MVC winning streak the Lady Bears ended, very much remains a threat. The Bulldogs visit Springfield on March 3, Missouri State’s senior day, and will look to grab the tie at the top of the conference, assuming both teams keep winning until then.
Three of the Bulldogs’ next four games are against teams currently in the bottom half of the MVC standings, with third-place UNI coming to town next Friday for the second leg of the Iowa derby (Drake handily won the Jan. 18 meeting in Cedar Falls, 88-64).
Tonight, the Bulldogs travel to face Valparaiso, who they took care of by 31 points in their first meeting back on Jan. 13. The Crusaders will want to keep an extra eye on Becca Hittner, not just because she put up 19 points in that January game, but because the already-prolific 1,000-point club member has scored 30 or more points in her last two games.
Whether the Lady Bears and Bulldogs completely breeze through the second half of MVC play is yet to be seen, but that March meeting in Springfield will be something to watch, especially if conference tournament seeding still isn’t set. Until then, know that for the first time in a few years, there’s a little bit more on the line than usual in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Tonight’s top MVC games
Missouri State Lady Bears (13-7, 9-0) at Southern Illinois Salukis (10-10, 3-6)
When: Friday, Feb. 8, at 7 p.m. ET
Where: SIU Arena, Carbondale, IL
How to watch: ESPN3
Drake Bulldogs (16-5, 8-1) at Valparaiso Crusaders (6-15, 2-7)
When: Friday, Feb. 8, at 6 p.m. ET
Where: Athletics-Recreation Center, Valparaiso, IN
How to watch: ESPN+
Elsewhere in the MVC:
- The Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week is Drake junior guard Becca Hittner who, in the Bulldogs’ split of last week’s games, shot 57.9 percent and averaged 33.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
- Loyola Chicago forward Allison Day is the MVC Newcomer of the Week. The freshman scored a career-high 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against Bradley on Sunday and also had a 13-point, 7-rebound game against Illinois State. Loyola hosts Northern Iowa tonight (8 p.m. ET, ESPN3).
- Though Drake’s 47-game MVC winning streak — a conference record — came to an end, this Bulldogs squad can take comfort in knowing that their feat will probably stand for quite some time. Southern Illinois previously held the record of 37 consecutive regular-season conference wins that was set from 1985-87.
- Both Drake and Missouri State are keeping themselves in exclusive company on the national level. The Bulldogs are one of just 21 teams with two or more wins over RPI top-25 teams (and just one of five mid-majors to reach this mark), while the Lady Bears are one of 14 teams who are undefeated in conference play.