The night it all changed: Bears’ haven’t recovered from home loss to Shockers in 2014

It’s probably an over-simplification to say that one game charted a Titanic-like course for Missouri State’s once-proud basketball program, but let’s re-visit a defining moment.

On January 11, 2014 the Bears had the look of a program on the rise. With an 12-3 record and a rowdy gathering of 10,775 fans jamming into JQH Arena on a cold Saturday night, Missouri State surged to 19-point lead over unbeaten Wichita State with just under 12 minutes remaining.

Attendance at JQH Arena has plummeted further that Pete Kozma’s batting average since more than 10,000 saw the Bears lose in overtime to Wichita State three years ago.

What happened the rest of the way was nothing short of a meltdown of epic proportions for the home team. Wichita State stormed back, rattling the Bears’ with full-court pressure. The Shockers forced overtime on Fred Van Vleet’s late three-point play.

During overtime, Missouri State leading scorer Marcus Marshall injured his knee. He played through it at the time, the severity not immediately evident. Wichita State pulled out a 72-69 victory – the closest test during its 34-0 regular season.

The Bears were one basket, one defensive stop, perhaps one fewer turnover from preventing the unbeaten season and Wichita State’s eventual No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Instead, that loss sent the Missouri State program into a spiral that it’s arguably never recovered from.

Marcus Marshall has knee surgery four days later. He did not play again as the Bears finished that season 8-10 en route to a 20-13 overall record and first-round tourney loss to Murray State.

The next season saw the Bears go 11-20 with Marshall and Lusk having a falling out on Jan. 14, 2015 – nearly a year to the day after the defining loss to the Shockers. Marshall, now the leading scorer in the Mountain West Conference for Nevada, never played another minute for the Bears.

I’ve never cast blame as I’m sure there was plenty on both sides of the Marshall/Lusk relationship. But losing a player of Marshall’s talent set the program back. The rebuilding Bears went 13-16 in 2015-16.

Now, at 16-15 as Wichita State visits JQH Arena on Saturday for the regular-season finale, a once-promising season has come apart at the seams.

The Bears are 5-10 since guard Ronnie Rousseau departed the team for “personal reasons.” Attendance has tanked.

That night of Jan. 11, 2014 – when the Missouri State program was trending upward and the crowd roaring – seems much longer than three years and change.

It seems even longer since that February day six years ago that the Bears beat the Shockers and cut down the nets to celebrate the school’s lone Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title. Missouri State has lost 13 in a row to the Shockers (by an average margin of 19.7 points) since.

Most damning of all, apathy has set in. Missouri State is averaging 4,021 fans per home game. There seems little buzz about the Shockers coming to town. There could more more noise from those wearing black and yellow in JQH Arena on Saturday than those in maroon.

What a difference three years makes.



Ozarks’ Area Racers Hall of Fame Spotlight: Sportscaster Reynolds was on the scene in Fairgrounds’ glory days

IMG_0507Ned Reynolds got his first taste of Ozarks’ stock-car racing in 1973, when his Hall of Fame sportscasting career was still in its relative infancy.

“Harry Lightfoot was running the Fairgrounds Speedway and he wanted to build up racing with the media,” Reynolds recalled. “It was a Sunday afternoon in April and it was so, blasted cold that I’ll never forget it.”

Reynolds, along with long-time Springfield Newspapers sports editor Marty Eddlemon and some other local media members were invited to an early season race at the Fairgrounds. Lightfoot had a buffet lunch prepared.

“That was a hooking point for me,” Reynolds said – the races, not the buffet lunch.

“Most of the races were on Friday nights and before that I never had an opportunity to get out there,” Reynolds said of a schedule that had him behind the sports anchor desk at KYTV, Channel 3 on weeknights. “After that, I knew I had to get out there and concentrate more on racing.”

Ned Reynolds

Reynolds, one of iconic figures of Ozarks’ sports journalism, is among 10 members of the Hall of Fame class for the 30th annual Ozarks Area Racers Foundation Reunion on Saturday. The headliner at the Ozarks Empire Fairgrounds E-Plex is NASCAR great Mark Martin.

Doors will open at 4 p.m. with an autograph session from 5:30-6:30. The ceremony will begin at 6:30 with a Salute to Champions from local tracks, followed by the Hall of Fame induction. Advance tickets are $15 at O’Reilly Auto Parts locations and $20 at the door.

Area speedways will have informational booths and there will be Ozarks-area racing memorabilia along with vintage and modern race cars on display. One of those cars will be a Mark Martin tribute car. A silent auction featuring various racing items also is scheduled.

Reynolds, a native of Haddonfield, N.J. just outside of Philadelphia, Pa., even wound up as the Fairgrounds’ track announcer for a couple of years in the mid-1970s – when racing at the Fairgrounds was the hottest ticket in town. A Friday-night gathering place, the races would attract several thousand fans each week to Springfield’s north side.

While he’s in multiple Halls of Fame for his sportscasting excellence after nearly five decades at KY3 – where he retired a couple of years ago but still appears on air occasionally – Reynolds said he’s proud to join the Ozarks Area Racing Foundation Hall of Fame. He appreciates the proud heritage of racing in the Ozarks and is glad to have been a part of it.

One of Reynolds’ most memorable projects was KYTV’s “Sunday Speedway” program that ran weekly in 1977-78. Reynolds served as host in the hour-long program that reviewed that week’s races with highlights, commentary and interviews.

That was when Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace were up-and-coming teen stars, cutting their racing teeth against legendary local hero Larry Phillips among others.

“We taped those shows and put them together on Saturdays,” Reynolds said. “Unfortunately, those tapes don’t exist any more. It was a fun to do. We had a good time putting that show together.

“Larry Phillips was the star of the show,” Reynolds said. “When he didn’t win it was because he wasn’t there.”

Reynolds continues to do part-time television work in retirement and regularly hosts the “Sports Reporters” radio show on 98.7 FM five days a week. He also serves as a play-by-play announcer for selected Missouri State and basketball games and Springfield Cardinals baseball games.

He enters the Hall in the “Pioneer” division for those contributing off the track. Other Pioneer inductees are Forrest Lucas, Ronnie Williams, Bill Davis and the late Julian Martin.

“Legend” division honorees for those excelling behind the wheel are Mark Martin, Terry Bivins, Rick Sharp, Robbie Johnson and the late Rayme Johnson.

Ozarks Area Racers Hall of Fame spotlight: Ronnie Williams’ voice an Ozarks’ tradition

IMG_0507For more than three decades, Ronnie Williams has asked Ozarks racing fans one question.

His decibel level rising by the word, Williams has kicked off hundreds of racing programs at several different speedways by asking: “Are … you … readyyyyy … to … go. … RACIN!!!!????”

Williams, a lifelong resident of Lebanon, is one of the most-recognizable voices in Ozarks racing. He’s best known as the voice of Lebanon I-44 Speedway but has called the action at several area ovals.

Ronnie Williams has been calling Ozarks-area stock-car races for three decades.

Energy and enthusiasm is never lacking for Williams, who brings a passion to his job.

“Every race, you have to enjoy it. Otherwise, you might as well stay at home,” Williams said of race-calling style. “If I’m having fun, hopefully the crowd is having fun, too.”

Williams is among  10 inductees into the Ozarks Area Racers Foundation Hall of Fame. Ceremonies for the 30th annual Reunion and Hall event are Saturday at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds E-Plex in Springfield.

Doors will open at 4 p.m. with an autograph session from 5:30-6:30. The ceremony will begin at 6:30 with a Salute to Champions from local tracks, followed by the Hall of Fame induction. Advance tickets are $15 at O’Reilly Auto Parts locations and $20 at the door.

Area speedways will have informational booths and there will be Ozarks-area racing memorabilia along with vintage and modern race cars on display. One of those cars will be a Mark Martin tribute car. A silent auction featuring various racing items also is scheduled.

Williams is among five inductees in the “Pioneer” Division, for their contributions to the Ozarks’ racing scene in ways other than driving. Others are Ned Reynolds, Bill Davis, Forrest Lucas and the late Julian Martin.

Inductees in the “Legend” division for driving are NASCAR great Mark Martin, Terry Bivins, Rick Sharp, Robbie Johnson and the late Rayme Johnson.

Ronnie Williams is the voice of Lebanon I-44 Speedway. Here he visits with fellow Ozarks Area Racers Foundation Hall of Famer Dale Roper after a race a few years ago.

This year’s induction class will bring the total in the Hall to 187. Names of the Hall of Famers are engraved on a black, granite monument permanently on display on the West side of the Fairgrounds on what once was the entrance to the old pit road.

Williams called his first stock-car race at age 13, at the old Bolivar Speedway where he attended races with his mother and step-father. So smitten with the action, Williams wrote to track promoter Neville Neal to tell him how much he enjoyed the races.

Ironically, a speedway regular racer was named Ronnie Williams, from Berryville, Ark. One night, while at the concession stand, young Ronnie heard the announcer page Ronnie Williams to the announcer’s booth. He figured it was for the other Williams – until he was paged as “Ronnie Williams from Lebanon, Missouri.”

“Dan Hutton, the announcer, read my letter over the P.A. and asked if I would announce a race. So I announced the mini-stock race,” Williams recalled.

That was it until about a decade later. Williams was a regular spectator at I-44 Speedway in his hometown, when Bill Willard opened the facility in 1983. Late that season, the announcer quit and Willard had a difficult time finding a replacement.

Williams got a chance and called the final two weeks of racing. In 1984, he was offered the job full time and, all except for two years while working nights, he’s been behind the mic at I-44 among other speedways.

Since about 1993, he’s called races from the infield. That began when he was asked to help line up cars under cautions. He liked the vantage point so much, he’s stay there ever since.

While developing his own style from an early age, Williams said his announcing influences were long-time Cardinals’ play-by-play man Jack Buck, Hutton and former ASA announcer Gary Poindexter.

“I thought it was pretty neat to get a small check to do something that I loved,” Williams said of his beginnings at I-44 in 1983. “I’ve made a lot of great friends and acquaintances. I’ve been blessed.

“To go into the Hall of Fame is humbling and it makes me proud – especially to go in with the group that I’m going in with.”

Tickets for the Racers Reunion remain on sale at area O’Reilly Auto Parts stores at $15 in advance, online through Everbrite or can be purchased from Ozarks Area Racers Foundation members. Admission is $20 at the door the day of the event.



Ozarks Area Racers spotlight: Hall of Famer Bivins still going fast at 73

By Lyndal Scranton
Ozarks Area Racers Foundation

Long after turning laps with some of the world’s best stock-car drivers, Terry Bivins still likes to go fast. It’s just that, at age 73, things are a bit more laid back in the B-Mod he campaigns at Lakeside Speedway.

Terry Bivins and wife Claudia with his B-Mod.

“We’re retired and love to fish,” Bivins said of he and wife, Claudia. “But you can’t fish in Kansas every day.”

So for the last fews years, the Lebow, Kansas, resident who once was one of the best in the Midwest has returned to the cockpit of a race car. He’s still competitive, finishing eighth in points last season at Lakeside Speedway in a 10-year-old car with plans to run again in 2017.

He will do so as a Hall of Famer after his induction into the Ozarks Area Racers Foundation Hall of Fame on Jan. 7 at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds E-Plex in Springfield. Tickets ($15 in advance and $20 at the door) are available at many O’Reilly Auto Parts locations in southwest Missouri.

Joining Bivins in the 30th annual induction class in the Legend (driving) division are Mark Martin, Rick Sharp, Robbie Johnson and the late Rayme Johnson. In the Pioneer (off-track contribution) division are the late Julian Martin, Lucas Oil Products founder Forrest Lucas, journalist Ned Reynolds, one-time NASCAR car owner Bill Davis and long-time Ozarks track announcer Ronnie Williams.

There was a time some four decades ago when Bivins, then from Shawnee Mission, Kansas, mixed it up with man of nation’s best short-trackers at the old Springfield Fairgrounds Speedway, I-70 Speedway and Rolla Speedway before embarking on a brief NASCAR career. He was competitive against the big boys.

Terry Bivins was a force on the regional racing scene in the 1970s.

“It was rewarding,” Bivins said of 28 career NASCAR Sprint Cut races from 1975-77, including an eighth-place finish in the 1976 Daytona 500. “I had short-tracked for 13 or 14 years, clear up north to down to Florida and Louisiana and Arkansas. That was a goal, something I always dreamed to do, to race at Daytona or those places.

“To get the opportunity was satisfying, just knowing that I did a good-enough job that people would offer me a ride down there.”

For a time in NASCAR he drove a car owned by Arkansas’ Billy Moyer – who went on to become a dirt-track Hall of Famer – for three races including Daytona, Richmond and Atlanta.

“He kept telling me I was supposed to have a new engine on the way,” Bivins said. “It was supposed to get there for Atlanta and never showed. Well, I was top-10 in points after Daytona and Richmond. I went ahead and ran the old motor and it popped halfway through the (Atlanta) 500. We had to try to do something else after that.”

Bivins calls the Ozarks Racers Foundation Hall of Fame honor “a heck of an honor for me. I did a lot of racing all over, but I raced down there a lot – and won down there a lot. It makes me proud to get recognition for racing somewhere other than in the Kansas City area.

“I loved running at Springfield. At the Fairgrounds, that old flat track was fun. Rolla was a great place to race, too.”

“The competition level, it was tough, man. You had Larry Phillips, (Lester) Friebe, (David) Goldsberry, (Willie) Crane and others. There were some fast cats down there. When you came down there and won a race, you knew you had out-run some of the best in the country.”

Bivins said he hadn’t raced in nearly 30 years when he was approached a few years ago about driving a Grand National car at Lakeside.

“It took me about 30 seconds to say yes,” he said. He went into an A-Mod after wrecking that car and has been in the B-Mod in recent years.

“I know I’m not as fast as I used to be,” Bivins said. “But my reflexes are really good. You can drop a wrench and I’ll catch it before it hits the floor.”

Don’t expect Bivins to slow soon any time soon. After all, there’s only so much fishing he and Claudia can do in the middle of Kansas.

“I am looking forward to next year and hope to have another good season and a lot of fun racing with those young, fast guys,” he said.

Terry Bivins is among 10 inductees into the Ozarks Area Racers Foundation Hall of Fame on Jan. 7 at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds E-Plex.

MVC Tourney roundtable: Best moments and where to find great BBQ in STL (hint: Super Smokers)

Compiled by my friend Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle:
In this edition of the MVC round table, we hit up the most experienced member of our group — some among them can remember tournament games at Kiel Auditorium — for their memories of Arch Madness.
1. Best tournament game you’ve covered?
It was not the best-played game, but my choice is Northern Iowa’s 79-74 victory over Missouri State – in double-overtime – for the 2004 championship. It was win-or-bust for both teams, as neither had a prayer for an NCAA at-large or, if I recall correctly, even an NIT invite. Both teams had numerous opportunities to win in regulation and in the first overtime. Finally, the Panthers outlasted the Bears – who were playing their final basketball game as “Southwest” Missouri State prior to the name change.
Lyndal Scranton, Tailgate Guys Radio
As far as a competitive, well-played championship game, I’ll go with the 2012 matchup between Creighton and Illinois State, won by Creighton 83-79 in overtime. Doug McDermott had 33 points for the Bluejays in a back-and-forth classic.
As far as sheer drama, I have to go back to the 1996 semifinal between Bradley and Missouri State. Bradley won 64-62 on a last-second desperation no-look heave by Deon Jackson to advance to the title game and ensure the Braves an at-large NCAA bid.
Dave Reynolds, Peoria Journal Star
hough Indiana State won the 2011 Tournament, and there were plenty of memorable moments in that run (Jake Odum buzzer-beater in quarters, taut games against WSU and MSU in semifinals and finals), I’d still have to go with the bizarre 2006 play-in game the Sycamores played against Drake.
The Sycamores scored 10 in the first half and I thought I was watching the worst Sycamore performance I’d ever seen. Then they turn around and score 62 in the second half to win the game. At the time, it was the record for least and most points scored in a half as well as lowest and highest shooting percentage (don’t have stats in front of me) by half in MVC Tournament history.
I believe all of those records have since been broken, but what a wild game that was in what had been a wild season for the Sycamores.
Todd Golden, Terre Haute Tribune Star
SIU’s game against Missouri State in 2011 tops them all for me. The Salukis entered the tournament as the eight seed, beat ninth-seeded Illinois State in the opening round and had top-seeded Missouri State down nine points with under three minutes to go. It was nearly the biggest upset in the history of the tournament.
Kyle Weems, who hit the game-winning jumper over Carlton Fay with about two seconds to go, refused to allow that. The Bears scored the last 11 points to escape and made it all the way to the finals before Indiana State and Jake Odum took ‘em out. SIU opened the door with missed free throws and missed shots, and Missouri State got a really long 3 from Adam Leonard and then Weems’ shot on a clear-out on the right side.
Todd Hefferman, The Southern Illinoisan
Has to be the 1996 semifinal between Bradley and Missouri State (well, still Southwest Missouri State then). Bradley was the No. 1 seed, but the teams had split the season series, each winning at home. It was a close game throughout. Both schools’ fans were there in force. In Bradley’s case, the Braves hadn’t been to a tournament championship game since 1988 and Hersey Hawkins, so there was an air of expectation combined with the nerves. SMS seemed to control much of the game, with Bradley never being quite able to get over the hump.
It comes down to the final seconds, Bradley down a point and having to go length of the court. Most interesting was that Bradley coach Jim Molinari designed the play for Player of the Year Anthony Parker to feed the post for the potential game-winner. Parker drives the court, but the off-ball screening broke down in the paint, and Parker’s pass rattled off Deon Jackson’s hands and the ball starts rolling to the left wing. The Bradley fans moan, the SMS fans roar, and you figure that’s it. But Jackson sprints after the ball, scoops it up with his back to the basket as he crosses the 3-point arc, and turns and flings.
Swish. Bradley wins, 64-62. SMS fans go silent, Bradley fans roar, Jackson goes sprinting around the court with his teammates chasing him. Postlude: The next fall, at MVC Media Day, a reporter asks SMS coach Steve Alford about Jackson’s shot. I don’t have the quote in front of me, but it was basically: “That was not a shot. I was a shooter, and that was not a shot.”
Whatever. It went in.
Kirk Wessler, Peoria Journal Star
Creighton ruined three good stories with its controversial win over Wichita State in the 2009 quarterfinals.
WSU’s J.T. Durley dominated the second half to bring the Shockers back from 18 down in the final 6:52. He scored all 17 of his points in the second half.
WSU’s Toure Murry made a three with nine seconds to play to give WSU a 62-61 lead. Murry made game-winning threes twice earlier in the MVC schedule. He thought he had a third until Creighton’s Booker Woodfox made his much-disputed shot in the final two seconds for a 63-62 win.
Durley, monumental Shockers rally and epic Bluejays collapse, Murry dagger. Great stuff.
Then things really got crazy.
Paul Suellentrop, The Wichita Eagle
2. Maybe you were there for Deon Jackson’s shot or Royce Waltman’s farewell speech or Booker Woodfox. What’s your favorite MVC Tournament memory?
Royce Waltman’s speech was an all-timer. But for me, nothing will top the absolute shock and awe of Deon Jackson’s fling-it-in shot at the horn to save Bradley from a semifinal upset of Missouri State in the 1996 tourney. The shot remains a video-replay favorite this time of the year and still makes veteran Bears’ fans cringe to this day.
I vote for Deon’s shot. While I can vividly recall the stunning moment as it unfolded just a few yards from me, what I remember most fondly are the stories behind the story.
When Jackson’s unlikely fling brought the Braves victory, he had a look of absolute shock on his face. Then he began to dash around the court holding his head. At the time, everyone thought he was just excited for hitting the game-winner. But it later surfaced that he had a severe case of claustrophobia and was running desperately away from his teammates so they wouldn’t pile on top of him.He succeeded.
The other fond memory I have is of the postgame press conference with Bradley coach Jim Molinari. Throughout Deon’s career, his relationship with Molinari was similar to that of a petulant, but lovable child and a stern father. Deon had a strong inside game, but liked to shoot 3s, of which Coach Mo usually didn’t approve. So I asked Mo in the press conference whether it was OK with him for Deon to shoot a 3 in that situation. Mo just shook his head and said, “Oh, Dave.”
The Royce Waltman speech was definitely a personal moment for me as the question that prompted his speech was about my story on his being let go. The deal in place at the time with ISU brass was that Waltman was supposed to keep his dismissal on the down low until the Monday after Arch Madness, but some ISU trustees were blabbing about it anyway, and that didn’t sit right with the very proud Waltman. He could have ripped me for the story I wrote, but he didn’t, and instead, launched into an eloquent speech.
However, the best moment and best game I’ve witnessed was the 2009 WSU-Creighton game, the Booker Woodfox “Two Dribbles And A Ham Sandwich” Game.
The final shot is what’s remembered, but it’s forgotten what a great game that was from halftime on. I had already completed my ISU duties that day and just watched it like everyone else did. The byplay between the fan bases was outstanding. It was a great atmosphere.
The after-game rancor was equally entertaining. Gregg Marshall was not yet the golden boy of the league, in fact, he was the black hat of the MVC at the time. I distinctly remember his stare-down with Doug Elgin in the hallways of Scottrade. It was tense.
— Golden
I wasn’t there for any of those three in person, but I remember watching Woodfox’s shot against Wichita State on TV at Mike Shannon’s Steakhouse down the street. In between downing a porterhouse steak I turned to watch the last few seconds, and the whole bar erupted when he hit it. The steak was fantastic, too.
SIU hasn’t had a lot of success at the event since I started in 2008, but I’d say the run in 2014 to the semifinals was unexpected and enjoyable. Anthony Beane came of age, and Desmar Jackson was one of the most exciting players to watch in the event. SIU lost by three to Indiana State in the semifinals.
— Hefferman
Lots of favorites, but I think it has to be The Stallings Stare.
It was 1997 semifinal between Illinois State and UNI. Northern was controlling the first half and ISU was in all sorts of foul trouble. In the final minutes, ISU’s Dan Muller picks up his third foul on a Jason Daisy drive. Media timeout follows the whistle, and ISU coach Kevin Stallings never goes to the team huddle. Instead, he marches to the end of the bench and spends the entire timeout glaring at John Higgins, who had made the call. I don’t think Stallings blinked the whole time.
As so often happens, that moment turned the momentum. Northern went up nine points after Daisy finished the and-1, but ISU came back and won the game and went on to win the tournament. I’ve been covering college basketball for 40 years, and I’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff. I watched Johnny Orr sprint into the middle of the court to stop a fast break. I saw Norm Stewart channel his minor-league pitching career and go into a full windup and fire a fast ball at official Johnny Overby.
And I’ve seen countless coaches berate officials and get T’d or tossed. But I’ve never seen a coach do what Stallings did. Never said a word. Just glared, like the Sphinx.
The Wichita State-Creighton rivalry got better and better through the years and it was fun to watch it play out in close quarters in St. Louis. The fans competed to fill the most seats, the teams had a healthy dislike and respect and knew they measured themselves against each other.
The 2009 quarterfinal game produced crazy drama. The 2013 title game provided two top-level teams playing well for 40 minutes.
3. What’s your recommendation for a restaurant in St. Louis?
When you’re in St. Louis, at least for me, it comes down to a choice between Italian and BBQ. For Italian, a trip to The Hill is a must. There are literally a half-dozen or so places where you can’t go wrong, but my choice is Cunetto’s House of Pasta. Great, great food for a reasonable price. For BBQ, I always stop in Eureka at Super Smoker’s and see my friend Terry Black who’s been called The Godfather of St. Louis BBQ. Many of the hot BBQ joints in STL (the guys who run Pappy’s and Bogarts apprenticed under Black) and I’m loyal to Super Smokers.
So many choices, especially since my foodie son has located there. My favorite is probably Pappy’s, the iconic downtown bar-b-q joint. Prepare to get there early in the day and prepare to wait in line. But it is so worth it.
We scribes don’t get out much during Arch Madness, but there’s a few I like. Tucker’s In Soulard is a nice sit-down steak place. Michael’s Bar and Grill on Manchester Road is good. There’s a place in Clayton called Cafe Manhattan that has really good burgers. None of those are within walking distance of Scottrade, so not sure how helpful that is.
Like a lot of you I don’t get out much during the actual tournament, but my family visits St. Louis a lot because of the proximity. And the zoo. If you’re ever free for lunch, there is a fantastic family-owned Italian place called Adriana’s in The Hill district, on Shaw Boulevard. It’s only open during the day but the food is worth the drive, and there’s a great coffee place down the street – Shaw’s Coffee.
Due to the tournament schedule, we don’t get to hit the restaurants much. But depending on what you seek, I have three places I like to hit when I’m in the Lou: If you’re going to The Hill for Italian, I recommend Giovanni’s on Shaw Street. There are lots of great Italian places, but that one is my favorite. If you want great BBQ and atmosphere, check out Highway 61 Roadhouse and Kitchen in Webster Groves, just off I-44. For pub food – and sometimes a good band, plus a nice dining patio in good weather – I like the Train Wreck Saloon in Westport Plaza, which is in the northwest corner of the city, just inside the I-270 beltway.
Zia’s. Get there early.
4. You’re drafting a team from MVC schools during your time covering the conference. Who is your first pick?
Fred Van Vleet. The Valley’s always been a guard-centric league and nobody’s run the show better and won more games as a point guard that Van Vleet. Nobody’s ever made the people around him better the way Van Vleet has.
So many good teams over the years. The Southern Illinois dynasties in the mid-90s and early-to-mid 2000s. Bradley in ’96. Tulsa in the mid-90s. Illinois State in ’97 and ’98. All the Creighton editions, particularly the Doug McDermott years. Even Drake in ’08 was an offensive juggernaut.
But the best of them all was Wichita State in 2014. The Shockers rode an undefeated season into the tournament and swept through those three games totally unchallenged. Their two-point loss to Kentucky in the NCAAs — one of the best games I’ve seen on that stage in recent years — showed the national cachet that team owned.
Those Shockers had it all — size, great offense, great defense, toughness and an outstanding coach.
I think wonders could be done with any team built around Fred VanVleet. He’d be my first choice. Pair him up with Darren Brooks, Doug McDermott, Cleanthony Early and Egidijus Mockevicius and that would be a great, traditional starting five.
Darren Brooks is out for me because I started in 2008, and SIU fans will probably kill me for this, but I’d take Fred VanVleet from Wichita State with my first pick. If I had only the second pick to start my team, I’d take Jake Odom from Indiana State. Bryan Mullins was great, but those two players were a bit more gifted, offensively. After that, I’d take Doug McDermott from Creighton, Cleanthony Early from Wichita State, Woodfox, and Osiris Eldridge from Illinois State, and slaughter all of you.
In my time covering the conference? Well, that’s two stretches, since I first covered the league in the 1970s when I was a student. So, I’d have to start with Larry Bird, Maurice Cheeks and Roger Phegley, then add Hersey Hawkins and Doug McDermott. From my second stretch, which began in the late 1980s, I’d go with Hersey Hawkins, Fred VanVleet, Doug McDermott, Chad Gallagher and Cle Early. And I would love, love, love to have Ben Walker coming off the bench.
My 10-year All-MVC team: 1. VanVleet, 2. McDermott, 3. Randal Falker, SIU, 4. Ron Baker, WSU, 5. Patrick O’Bryant, Bradley.

Catch our video: How to BBQ a pork steak

The Tailgate Guys – from the Countryside BBQ Pro Shop Tailgate Guys radio show – have gone Hollywood.

Well, maybe not Hollywood. More like Spring Vegas.

Anyhow, Steven Spielberg might not have anything to fear just yet but the Tailgate Guys have produced their first video. It’s a how-to-do pork steaks with Steve Koehler showing us the way. 

Remember, tune into the Countryside BBQ Pro Shop Tailgate Guys each Saturday from 11:05 a.m.-noon on AM 1340 KICK or online at

To check out our video, go our Facebook page at

Until next week, Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em and #BBQUP

Bears upset Northern Iowa: A look at the final seconds

By now you know Missouri State upset projected Missouri Valley Conference contender Northern Iowa, 59-58, Wednesday night at JQH Arena.

Here is how the final seconds looked from the northwest corner of the lower bowl. First is DeQuon Miller’s daring drive to the basket for the go-ahead bucket, followed by Wes Washpan’s miss as the horn sounded.

Countryside BBQ Pro Shop signs as title sponsor for Tailgate Guys

The Tailgate Guys radio show – barbecue talk with a dash of sports – has a title sponsor.

The Countryside BBQ Pro Shop Tailgate Guys begins January 16 on KICK, 1340 AM. Co-hosts Lyndal Scranton and Steve Koehler will talk everything from barbecue techniques, to equipment to recipes from 11 a.m.-noon each Saturday.

Countryside BBQ Pro Shop has a vast array of BBQ supplies, equipment, rubs and sauces at its store, located at 1316 E. Republic Road.

Sponsorship opportunities remain for the one-of-its-kind radio show for southwest Missouri. Contact Lyndal Scranton at Lscranton755@gmail or Steve Koehler at for information.

The show can be heard on 1340 AM, live on the web at or through apps for iPhone and Android by searching 1340 Big Talker.

Coming to a radio near you: The Tailgate Guys

It’s official – The Tailgate Guys are coming to a radio near you.

Co-hosts Lyndal Scranton and Steve Koehler are bringing The Tailgate Guys to KICK, 1340 AM on Saturdays 11 a.m.-noon.

Tentatively, the inaugural show is scheduled for Jan. 16.


We’ll talk all things BBQ – with some sports on the side. It will be tremendous.

You can listen online at or with a free app for iPhone and Android devices by searching for 1340 Big Talker.

Affordable advertising is available for this one-of-a-kind radio show for the Ozarks area. Contact me via email at