Nov. 18, 2011
Bearcats head to Hillyard Classic
By David Boyce
All successful college basketball coaches want at least two things to occur during the early, non-conference portion of the schedule: build cohesion and confidence.
If a team learns to play together and gains confidence in mid November, the winning will take off itself down the road.
Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team heads into the two-day Hillyard Classic at Missouri Western tonight on the right track in November that will keep the Bearcats chugging along in December, January, February and March.
Northwest will bring a 2-0 record into tonight’s game at 5 p.m. against Rockhurst. Northwest returns to action 6 p.m. Saturday against William Jewell.
“We just want to play together defensively and get our defense down and get that to where it needs to be and go from there,” said Northwest junior guard Bryston Williams. “We just want to play together as a team.”
The Bearcats set the tone for that type of play a week ago in their season opener at UMKC.
Northwest held the Kangaroos to 37 percent shooting from the field and came away with an impressive 66-62 victory against a NCAA Division I school.
In the win, the Bearcats survived foul trouble from point guard DeShaun Cooper, a few home-cooking calls that went UMKC’s way and 9 of 20 free throw shooting. It does not take a degree in statistics to figure that less than 50 percent from the line.
Through the adversity, the Bearcats stuck together.
“We made each other better. We got into foul trouble, but our depth helped us get through that,” said Northwest assistant coach Andy Peterson.
“We responded well when things went against us. Just being on the road and being in that environment and knowing a team is going to make a run and withstanding that, and we overcame other things like our lack of focus at making free throws. We did not let that bite us. We finished the game strong.”
To the Bearcats’ credit, they took the win against UMKC in stride, not gloating that a Division II team beat a Division I team.
“It is always big to go on the road and get a win. It was a good win for us. We just want to look at the next game and take it game by game,” Williams said.
Northwest did exactly that when it easily won its home opener on Tuesday, beating Waldorf College 74-43. The Bearcats showed improvement at the free throw line. They went 12 for 19 from the line.
The Bearcats continued to play good defense. Waldorf shot a measly 26 percent from the field. Waldorf only made 14 field goals for the game.
Northwest will face a stiffer challenge tonight against Rockhurst, which traditionally plays a gritty brand of basketball.
But the Bearcats have more than enough players to handle it.
“Our depth is has been a blessing and a curse,” Peterson said. “We feel comfortable putting 13 of our players out there. We know what we can get. Each one brings some positives that we need. It is a good thing. At the same time, it is a curse because you want to get eight or nine guys in a rhythm or some type of a flow. We have the depth that we have not had the past three or four years.
“We just have to continue to improve regardless of our opponent. One of our themes this year is imposing our will.”
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