Dec. 16, 2011
Bearcats face tough road test at #15 Tigers
By David Boyce
Finals are over! The most conscientious students usually feel a weight lifted after taking their last fall semester final. They can look forward to Christmas and winter break without another test lurking in the back of their minds.
The Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team has one more major test before they take a six-day break. The Bearcats take their perfect 9-0 record and first-place status in the MIAA to Fort Hays State Saturday.
At the 4 p.m. tipoff at Gross Memorial Coliseum, Northwest will face a team ranked No. 15 in NCAA Division II and is 8-1 overall and 2-1 in the MIAA.
“They are a tough physical team,” Northwest coach Ben McCollum said. “They love to grind it out like we do. We will have to be ready for their physicality. We will try to keep it close and win it in the end.”
Actually, that is how Northwest has won its first three MIAA games, which were all at Bearcat Arena.
Northwest faced second-half deficits against Emporia State, Washburn and Pittsburg State. The Bearcats needed overtime to defeat the Gorillas. Two reasons they won those games, McCollum said, were resiliency and togetherness.
“We have been down in almost every game and we have the ability to maintain a positive attitude and comeback in those games,” McCollum said.
“Also, it is our unselfishness. Not everybody gets to play the minutes he wants just because we have a good amount of depth and everybody has been playing well. Those two things have been most impressive.”
It is one of the few times Northwest can go all out for an opponent. After Saturday, the Bearcats’ next game is December 30 at Lincoln, and that is when the real grind of the basketball season begins.
The Bearcats begin 2012 at rival Missouri Western on Jan. 4 and then play a home game Jan. 7 against Truman and at Central Missouri on Jan. 11.
“It makes it pretty easy to focus on one opponent,” McCollum said. “You do not feel bad focusing all your attention on one team because you don’t have another team for two weeks. We are really focused on Fort Hays and defending what they do.”
In general, most college basketball coaches love this time of year. The team is on campus without any distractions.
“Usually we focus on little things to get better, which is what every team does this time of year,” McCollum said.
But first, the Northwest players have time off. There is a mandatory six days off around Christmas for all MIAA athletes.
“They go home for Christmas and see their families and rest for a week and then we are back at it on Dec. 27,” McCollum said.
“I want them to stay in shape and not think about basketball too much. It is such a grind. We want them to get away, but jog a little, shoot a little bit and stay in condition. But mentally, I want them to have a break mentally so they can get right back into the grind.”
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Media Relations Department, Northwest Athletics
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