College Sports

McKendree will face Murray State to kick off basketball season

McKendree University men’s basketball coach Harry Statham will enter his 52nd season at the Lebanon school.
McKendree University men’s basketball coach Harry Statham will enter his 52nd season at the Lebanon school. BND photo

Financial difficulties that forced the closure of Saint Joseph’s College in May has altered the landscape of the Great Lakes Valley Conference.

The Division II league now has 15 teams and has been divided into three divisions for men’s basketball. McKendree University is in a division with regional rivals Missouri-St. Louis, Illinois-Springfield, Maryville University and Quincy University.

The Bearcats, who were 9-17 overall and 3-15 in the GLVC last season, will play two games against each of its divisional opponents. They will play one game against the other 10 teams in the conference.

The other two divisions consist of Indianapolis, Bellarmine, Southern Indiana, Lewis and Wisconside-Parkside; and Truman State, Drury, Missouri S&T, Rockhurst and William Jewell. The three divisions have not yet been named.

Bellarmine reached the semifinals of the Division II national tournament last season.

McKendree, which released its 2017-18 schedule Thursday, will open conference play Dec. 2 at Drury. The Bearcats’ first home game of the league season will be Dec. 7 against Truman State. The regular-season home opener will be Nov. 11 against Principia.

For the sixth consecutive year, the Bearcats will open their exhibition schedule against a Division I opponent when they face Murray State on Nov. 2 in Murray, Ky. The Racers are a traditional power in the Ohio Valley Conference with 24 championships and 15 NCAA tournament appearances.

“We are very pleased to be playing an exhibition game at Murray State. They have been a powerhouse in the OVC for many years,” 52nd-year McKendree coach Harry Statham said in a statement released by the university.

“Our roster is very balanced this year with five returnees, five upper-class transfers and five freshmen,” he said. “We have quality depth at all positions, and I’m anxious to play Murray State to see where we need focus as we prepare for the new season.”

Statham, who turned 80 in May, owns 1,110 career victories, which leads all men’s and women’s coaches at four-year institutions.

David Wilhelm: @DavidMWilhelm