Dec. 29, 2011
Bearcats close out 2011 at Lincoln
By David Boyce
It is an intriguing question that only media types with a lot of free time think up: If you are only going to have one basketball loss in the fall semester, when is the best time to have it?
Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team won its first nine games and jumped to first place in the MIAA with a 3-0 record.
But the Bearcats had one difficult game left before taking a week rest for Christmas. They played at Fort Hays State on Dec. 17. It was Northwest’s first road MIAA contest.
The Tigers, ranked No. 15, played like it, winning 83-64.
The Bearcats were going to have nearly two weeks with the bad taste of their first loss lingering in their mouths. The turkey, ham and all the chocolate that’s consumed during the holiday season probably didn’t taste as good.
Would it have been better for Northwest to have lost one of its thrilling home MIAA games and won at Fort Hays?
Northwest coach Ben McCollum knows the loss humbled his team and made them hungry to get back to winning.
His players learned that on the road you have to play harder than your opponent does.
“You got to be a lot tougher,” McCollum said. “We didn’t play real physical. We did not play as hard as we are capable of doing. We are going to make those improvements. We have two opportunities to get a road win this week.”
McCollum will find out Friday exactly what the loss on Dec. 17 did to the psyche of his team. The Bearcats return to action at 7 p.m. at Lincoln and then play at rival Missouri Western on Jan. 4.
Northwest will first focus on Lincoln. On paper, the game looks like a pop quiz in which the professor hands you the answers to the questions. Lincoln is 1-8.
McCollum will not allow the Bearcats to fall into that trap.
“I think they are better than they were last year and they had more wins last year,” McCollum said. “They compete. They are athletic. They are pretty long. They are going to crash the offensive board a lot. They are going to dribble drive a lot. They will be ready to compete.”
No loss is good, but the one at Fort Hays let the Bearcats realize they need to be hungry every game, no matter who they play or where they play.
“It put us back to where we got that edge and hunger back,” McCollum said.
This is the time of the year all college basketball coaches’ love and most players do, too. Spring semester is still two weeks away from starting. Most college students are still at home. The focus is almost 100 percent on basketball.
After the Christmas break, McCollum gets a group back eager to play basketball.
“It is hard to relax after that loss,” McCollum said. “We were off seven or eight days. It gets to the point that the break is a little old. You want to get back to doing something. The break was good for a couple of days, but now we want to get back and get better.
“You can see a lot of improvement during this time. Hopefully, we will see some production in wins.
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