Dec. 9, 2011
Role reversal has Bearcats at 8-0
By David Boyce
Based on the way Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team has raced to an 8-0 start and shot to sole possession of first place in the MIAA by winning its first three conference games, the Bearcats’ matchup against Graceland Sunday afternoon should be easy.
After all, the Bearcats are playing at home. They are facing a NAIA school that is 6-5.
But the game also has the potential to produce a flat performance from the soaring Bearcats.
After three high-energy conference games, a non-conference game generally does not have the same intensity.
Plus, the players are about to embark on a week of finals. Trying to ace a professor’s exam should always be more difficult than trying score against a zone or man-to-man defense.
Northwest junior guard DeShaun Cooper said the Bearcats will be ready.
“There is no chance of a letdown. We can’t have a letdown at this time,” he said.
“I just want to see unity. If we come together and play together like we did against Pitt State and hit open shots and get the ball to the right people, we will win.”
During the first month of the season, Northwest coach Ben McCollum have set small goals for his team. The next one on the list is to become the first Northwest team since 2003 to win its first six non-conference games.
Despite the perfect start, McCollum sees things the Bearcats must improve on in order to continue to succeed on the court.
“We got to get a lot better on rebounding and loose balls and stuff like that,” he said. “Outside of that, we got to prepare for Fort Hays, who is No. 10 in the country. We will rest up, sharpen up and get better at the things we need to get better at.”
Northwest returns to conference play Dec. 17 with its first MIAA road game at Fort Hays, which is currently 7-1 and 1-1.
“We got some tough road games coming up,” Cooper said. “I felt we needed to get these wins to get some confidence going into their home so we can get the win there.”
Right now, there is nothing but smiles for the Bearcats. A year ago Northwest played its first five conference games on the road and lost them all. They used the rest of the conference season trying to dig out of a 0-5 hole.
The hot start this season has the rest of the league trying to catch the Bearcats.
“It feels great,” junior guard Bryston Williams said. “Our seniors are stepping up. We have a lot of players coming off the bench sparking us. We are just playing together.”
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