Dec. 8, 2010
Bearcats Face Critical Matchups
By David Boyce
A common thread runs through Northwest Missouri State's men's and women's basketball teams for tonight's games at Pittsburg State. Both teams need a win.
Of course, the Bearcats go into every contest wanting to win. But there are times when a victory is absolutely critical for the psyche of a team. This is one of those times.
Northwest is playing its third of four straight road games to start conference play. Both teams have been competitive in their first two road games, but have come up short.
"The main thing I've noticed about us is we haven't got down at all," said Elijah Allen, a senior forward on the men's team. "Just looking at us in practice you couldn't tell we lost a game at all. We've been competing. It's a hungry team that wants to win.
"It is very vital for us to get a win. We are playing a good team. Every road win in the MIAA is key."
Northwest, 2-4 overall and 0-2 in the MIAA, will take on the Gorillas, 3-4 and 1-1, at 7:30 tonight.
Before the men's team takes the court, the Northwest women, 4-2 and 0-2, will face Pittsburg State, 2-4 and 0-2, at 5:30 p.m., at Lance Arena.
"If we want to stay within sight of the leaders we have to win," Steinmeyer said. "I still like to believe we have a team that can compete with the top level if not for the championship. With 20 games to go, it is hard to imagine where you are going to end up at. But you just can't get buried in this early season road trip.
"I think Pitt State finds itself in the same position. You have two teams who like to be considered in the upper tier of the MIAA."
With Lincoln joining the MIAA in basketball this season, life in the MIAA has changed. Lincoln is the 12th team, meaning there are now 22 conference games, two more than last year.
It also means two fewer non-conference games to toy with a lineup and find out what combinations work best.
In addition, it means some teams might start the season playing three or four road games at the beginning of conference play.
You can count Steinmeyer as one coach not in favor of playing so many conference games. Just two seasons ago there were 18 conference games and in the 2005-06 season there were 16 when Missouri-Rolla left.
"We are going to have five games under our belt before Christmas. Five games you used to be able to tell where you stood. We could be 0-5 and still have a chance to do something in conference or the region, but I sure hope we are not 0-5.
"Twenty-two is a lot, but we are going to have 22 when we go to a 16-team slate. We just have to learn to live with it."
It's what the Bearcats are adjusting to and hoping they are ready to taste some road success.
"It is very tough, and then having a newer team and players aren't used to it, it can definitely have its challenges to it," Allen said. "I think we've done a great job. We've been in every game that we've lost. I've been pretty satisfied. We just have to finish plays."
The flip side of a tough road schedule early is the more favorable home schedule later in the season. From Jan. 17 through Feb. 5, the Bearcats will play five of six MIAA games at home.
"I think we are going to be tough later on because at home we are going to have players who feel comfortable and have a nice fan base."
The Bearcats realize they need to start winning on the road to make those home games more meaningful.
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