Jan. 13, 2011
Northwest must look ahead to find success
By David Boyce
Before facing Central Missouri Wednesday evening, Northwest Missouri State senior forward Elijah Allen viewed the game as vitally important.
The Bearcats were near the bottom in the MIAA standings, trying to claw their way to at least eighth, the cut-off spot for the conference tournament.
Northwest wanted to prove that its 15-point loss at Truman on Saturday was a hiccup that stopped the recent two-game winning streak.
"It's definitely important for our confidence level," Allen said Tuesday afternoon. "After taking a loss and then taking another loss, it would definitely get some guys down."
Unfortunately, the Bearcats lost 81-68 at home to Central Missouri and dropped to 4-9 overall and 2-7 in the MIAA.
To make matters worse, the Bearcats head back on the road to play Southwest Baptist on Saturday. Northwest is 0-5 in conference road games.
More than any time this season, the Bearcats have to believe in what they are doing and that will lead to success.
"Every game we've played we have been right there," Allen said. "We just haven't been able to pull some of them out. We know where we could be. We just have to focus on stopping the little mistakes we've been making."
The home loss to Central really puts the Bearcats in a bind. After playing Baptist, the Bearcats have a quick turnaround and will play conference leader Missouri Southern on Monday at Bearcat Arena.
It's a tough stretch in a short amount of time.
"There are no easy stretches in this league," Northwest coach Ben McCollum said. "You get done beating Western and you go to Truman who was 1 and whatever and you think it's a good game for you. But Truman is good. They would be on top in a lot of other leagues. But that's just our league."
Simply put, the Bearcats must dig deeper to find the winning formula. There are still plenty of games left. January has only hit the midway point. Six more weeks of conference basketball remains.
"I think it is important for us from a maturity standpoint to handle these three games," McCollum said. "You get up for every game and not get frustrated by runs from the other team. And we have to be able to prepare for each game and mentally stay focused throughout the game to execute that game plan."
The good thing is the Bearcats don't have to look too far back to see success. They won two straight, including a victory over rival Missouri Western before the current two-game losing streak.
"We defended and we played with a lot of energy," McCollum said. "We forced the other teams into low percentage shots and we took high percentage shots. That's something we really emphasized. Hopefully, we can carry it over to a road game at some point."
Northwest definitely needs to prove they can win on the road if they want to get back in the hunt for a spot in the conference tournament. They have already lost nearly half of their conference road games.
With six conference road games left, the Bearcats need to find a way to win at least three of them.
"I feel if we can get a win on the road then it will all come together and we will start rolling," sophomore guard DeShaun Cooper said. "I think it is very big. If we don't win on the road then it will be tough for us."
McCollum said his team needs to learn how to handle frustrating situations on the road better and not give into it.
"We don't handle frustration well on the road," McCollum said. "I think we did early and we were in all those games and leading most of the four games we had on the road and doing the right things.
"Those early road games were tough, but the last one with Truman we didn't handle frustrations and we didn't stay with our basic fundamentals. When a run goes against you on the road, if you stay with what you believe in and don't get frustrated and handle the adversity better, you are going to have a considerably better chance of winning. That's what we need to do."
The good news is the Bearcats still believe they will win any game they play.
"Staying with it is the main thing," Allen said. "I haven't seen anyone let up or give up."
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