A third of the way through their conference schedule, the Missouri State Bears are 5-1 and No. 2 in Missouri Valley Conference standings.
Just six games in, the Bears have shown the ability to put up a lot of points quickly. They currently average 77.8 points per game in MVC play. The defense is keeping pace, allowing an average of 70 points per game.
Here are four players having a positive impact on the team.
Isiaih Mosley, sophomore guard
Head coach Dana Ford said he has always been confident in Isiaih Mosley’s ability to score. Last season he said Mosley could find himself near the top of the all-time MSU scorers list before he graduates.
This year, everyone is seeing what Ford was talking about. Mosley currently sits at No. 3 in the nation in points per game with 23.7. Alabama A&M’s Jalen Johnson is second place, but he has only played two games. First place is Iowa Hawkeye Luke Garza, a Naismith favorite, with 27.6.
“Someone asked me yesterday what it is like to have Isiaih Mosley — it’s like holding the winning lottery ticket in your pocket,” Ford said after the Bears beat Indiana State on Jan. 3. “He’s just a scorer. Any time we’re stuck, we’re going to run something for him.”
Mosley has been able to score in just about any way this season. He’s adept at shooting the three, has developed the ability to score with his back to the basket, drives the ball often and has a knack for making pull-up jumpshots.
He has scored 20-plus points in seven straight games, but he does it without completely shutting down the Bears’ offensive flow.
“I’m happy that all my work is starting to show and people are starting to recognize all the hard work and late nights,” Mosley said after the Jan. 3 game. “I give a lot of respect to my teammates — they are always finding me and telling me to keep going.”
Gaige Prim, senior forward
Gaige Prim was a known commodity before the season, even though he was only able to play 20 minutes a game last year.
Prim is healthy now, which has been a huge development for Missouri State. When Prim is on the floor, the offense runs through him. He moves up to the high post and plays a passer role, hitting players on back cuts or flaring out for a three-point shot. He has 31 assists on the season, which is 25% of the team’s assists so far.
“Our coaches want us to come out with a layup mentality — get to the rim,” Prim said.
He is still a scoring threat, too. He has scored at least 10 points a game for over 20 games dating back to last season. Teams will try to double-team him when he gets the ball in the lane, something which ends up benefitting guards like Mosley.
Against Valparaiso on Jan. 8, Prim scored multiple baskets off lob passes when the player defending him was not paying attention.
“That’s what makes you an all-league player — you spend all week preparing to guard them and they still score,” Ford said. “We feel like Mosley and Prim are those two guys for us.”
Keaton Hervey, junior guard
Junior college transfer Keaton Hervey has been a starter for all of MVC play, and he brings a unique playstyle to the Bears.
Hervey does a little bit of everything, but effort plays seem to be his niche. Whether it is a loose ball on the floor or a rebound, Hervey seems to find a way to make those plays. He can also drive the ball, something the Bears sometimes lack when Mosley is on the bench.
“The biggest thing (for me) is just getting a flow in the offense,” Hervey said. “I’m a capable scorer; when I have the opportunities, I will take them.”
Lu’Cye Patterson, freshman guard
Just from watching freshman Lu’Cye Patterson play, it is hard to tell he is a freshman. The guard has taken a role coming off the bench for MSU, and Ford said he may be one of the smartest players on the team.
“He’s always what we call ‘assignment correct,’” Ford said. “He does what he’s supposed to do in regard to the scouting report. He missed a box-out late today and before I could even say it, he already knew he did.
“He just plays the game like he belongs,” Ford said. “He doesn’t look like a freshman; he’s got a great body, he’s got great confidence. He’s the son of a coach, so he knows what he’s doing. He just gives us great, valuable minutes.”
Against Indiana State on Jan. 3, Patterson’s on-ball defense created four different turnovers or closely contested shots which Missouri State rebounded.
Patterson is doing all of this in limited minutes, normally playing somewhere between nine and 20 minutes a game in MVC play. Ford said he may have to give him an expanded role.
“After watching (Jan. 2’s game against Indiana State), one of our biggest mistakes we made yesterday was not playing him more, because he was really good for us.”
Missouri State was supposed to host 13-0 Drake University on Jan. 15 and 16, but Drake has shut down due to positive COVID-19 tests within the team’s staff. The games will be rescheduled for a later date, per an MVC release. The next game the Bears are scheduled to play is at JQH Arena on Jan. 21 against Southern Illinois.