Dec. 7, 2011
Bearcats survive OT move into first-place
By David Boyce
Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team needed to put in a little extra work to remain undefeated.
Two clutch free throws by junior Bryston Williams with 7.5 seconds left in overtime plus some stellar defense propelled the Bearcats to a thrilling 73-70 overtime victory over Pittsburg State Wednesday evening Bearcat Arena.
“The game is kind of in your hands,” said Williams, who finished with a game-high 22 points. “You can give a little spread on the score. I just thought about practice and tried to knock them down.”
Williams was sensational at the line, making 17 of 18 and that mirrored his teammates. Northwest went 30 for 32 from the charity strip and needed just about every one of them.
Simply put, both teams put on a fantastic display of old-fashioned basketball in front of 1,106 fans.
Northwest and Pitt played hard on defense, shared the basketball on offense and didn’t do any unnecessary talking after important baskets.
“It was exactly like that,” said Northwest junior DeeShaun Cooper. “It was nothing but love out there. It was the game of basketball, and we came out here to play.”
The victory lifted Northwest to 8-0 overall and 3-0 in the MIAA. Pitt dropped to 5-4 and 1-2.
“This was our first overtime game and we came together and overcame,” said Cooper, who finished with 15 points. “We needed this to see how much we could come together.”
For a while, it appeared Northwest was going to take care of business in regulation. The Bearcats scored the last four points in the first half to grab a two-point halftime lead.
Northwest started the second half on fire, scoring the first nine points for a 39-28 lead.
Pitt remained poised. They kept working the ball around until it got good shots. They slowly chipped away and eventually tied the game 49-49 with 6:08 left.
Williams played strong throughout the second half and kept driving to the basket and getting fouled. With 2:53 left, Williams dropped two more free throws to give the Bearcats 58-55 lead.
“I got to the free throw line a couple of times so I tried to keep doing it and help my team out as much as I could,” Williams said.
Northwest held a 60-58 lead in the closing seconds when Pitt grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a short jumper by Eric Ray with 2 seconds left in regulation.
Cooper tried a desperation half-court shot that hit off the front rim. The game went into overtime.
“We were able to sustain that blow when the guy hit that last second two-pointer to send it to overtime,” Northwest coach Ben McCollum said. “We were able to come out in overtime and regain our composure and regain our momentum and win the game says a lot about our character.
“In the MIAA, as everybody knows, you got to have talent, but everybody has talent. It’s about who can handle adversity and who can handle another team’s run and who can get big stops when you need to. We’ve been able to do that in our first three conference games.”
Overtime started well for Northwest. Justin Clark hit a three-pointer. The Bearcats quickly built a 65-60 lead and then hit their free throws to prevent Pitt from tying or going ahead.
“A game like this,” said Williams, “helps us build on crucial times when we really need each other.”
A significant reason Northwest entered Wednesday’s game without a loss is because a player off the bench steps in and delivers.
In the first half against Pitt, freshman guard Matt Wallace was that player. He knocked both his field goal attempts and both free throws for seven points.
Wallace’s contributions gave the Bearcats a slim 30-28 lead at halftime.
Northwest scored the first four points of the game and then had trouble scoring. The minor drought allowed Pitt to build a 14-9 lead.
The Bearcats tied the game at 14-14 and then saw Pitt score the next seven points for a 21-14 lead. Northwest fought back to within one at 21-20.
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