Feb. 9, 2011
Bearcats return to Jason Gym
By David Boyce
Northwest Missouri State basketball coach Ben McCollum called the men's game tonight at Lincoln dangerous in one sense.
McCollum doesn't want his players to look at Lincoln's record and think all they have to do is show up to nab a victory. The Blue Tigers are still searching for their first MIAA win.
"There is a definite danger and Lincoln is a pretty good team," he said. "It's the MIAA. Every team in our league has the talent to do some things and beat teams. Lincoln is the same way. They had Western beat down there and couldn't close the game out earlier in the season.
"They have played a lot of teams close. They went to Pitt and played well. They've done pretty well for the most part. We will have to be ready."
Northwest women's basketball coach Gene Steinmeyer went so far as to call tonight's contest at Lincoln a trap game.
Steinmeyer can picture several scenarios in which his first-place Bearcats could fall to last-place Lincoln.
"We jump on a bus at 11:30. We have a 4-hour bus ride. It is supposed to snow," Steinmeyer said. "We go there and they have one of the best post players in the league. They have ball handlers. They are not going to turn it over."
The picture clear, McCollum and Steinmeyer want their players to treat tonight's doubleheader the same as if they were playing Washburn, Emporia State or Missouri Southern. Records and place in the MIAA standings should be meaningless.
The action starts at 5:30 tonight when Northwest's women, 17-3 and 13-3 faces Lincoln, 2-18 and 1-15.
The goal for the Bearcats is to keep their hold on sole possession of first place. It's only natural if the players look at the records of the two teams and let overconfidence creep into their thinking.
It happens all the time at all levels. Just two days ago the Dallas Mavericks nearly lost at home to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Cavaliers were on a 24-game losing streak that did stretch to an NBA-record 25 straight.
So if professionals can be lulled into taking a team lightly, certainly college athletes can fall into the same trap.
"I sure hope not," Northwest junior guard Shelly Martin said. "We've talked about that. We have to stay focused. They have been playing in a lot of close games. We have to go in with the same mindset we would against Emporia or Washburn. I think we will do that."
Even if the Bearcats play poorly, their overall depth should probably wear Lincoln down. Northwest has a talented starting five plus very capable players on the bench.
Northwest has three or four players coming off the bench who could start on most MIAA teams.
"There are a lot of teams in this country that have a roster of 12 kids and they play six. Lincoln has six kids and that's who plays," Steinmeyer said. "Now, is Lincoln a great team? No, they are not a great team. If we don't win the game, we don't deserve to be conference champs.
"But do they deserve our attention? Are they capable of beating us? Absolutely. Southern was only up three with less than a minute to go. Western was down eight with four minutes to go."
In all likelihood, the Northwest men's team will come out with a purpose tonight despite Lincoln's poor record of 2-18 and 0-16 in the MIAA.
The Bearcats, 6-14 and 4-12, are trying to build on winning two of its last three games.
Northwest is coming off a 65-64 victory at home against a tough Pittsburg State team. It was a game the Bearcats could have let slip away. Instead, they found a way to win.
"We handled adversity," McCollum said. "They made a little run at us. They put the press on us. When a team is desperate like that, you let a few things go as far as physicality and you have to be able to handle that and we were able to and stop their run just in the nick of time.
"In the past, we would have let them continue to run right past us."
Yes, there is some danger and sure the Bearcats could fall into a trap at Lincoln. But both teams are determined to avoid it. They don't want to be the first or the second team in the MIAA to lose to Lincoln.
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