Jan. 4, 2012
Haake and Cooper pace 'Cats past Griffons
By David Boyce
ST. JOSEPH – Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team did all the things necessary to pick up a conference road victory against a rival.
The Bearcats jumped to a big lead, weathered a late, first-half run and played, smart, hard-nosed basketball in the second half.
Toss in several clutch shots in the final 10 minutes from Kyle Haake, DeShaun Cooper and Bryston Williams and Northwest came away with its most impressive road win so far this season.
The Bearcats beat Missouri Western 64-53 Wednesday evening at MWSU Fieldhouse and moved into sole possession of first place in the MIAA.
“This was very big,” said Cooper, who finished with a game-high 21 points. “We just came off a road win and then we came in against a rival. It’s not only a road win, it is our rival.”
Senior forward Jake Reinders added to that sentiment.
“Back in Maryville people say you don’t have to win a game, but if you beat Mo. West it is a good season,” Reinders said. “It is always fun. It is a good rivalry. It is sweet right now.”
Northwest improved its record to 11-1 overall and 5-1 in the MIAA, putting the Bearcats ½ game ahead of Southern. Fort Hays State dropped out of a three-way tie for first with a loss at Central Missouri.
It is fun to follow the standings when your team is at or near the top of conference. But it is too early to think about conference championship at this point of the season.
“I think some people pay attention to the standings, but we don’t let it get to our heads,” Reinders said.
The Bearcats are more concerned with playing consistently well at home and on the road.
Northwest delivered a solid performance Wednesday. The Bearcats went into halftime with a four-point lead and quickly extended it to 30-22. A few minutes later Northwest was in front 35-25.
The Griffons were playing catch-up the rest of the second half and that was a difficult chore against Northwest stingy defense.
“I feel we are a second-half team,” Cooper said. “Second half is when we really lock in and play our kind of basketball.”
From time to time, Western dropped some ridiculously long three-pointers, but those low percentage shots were not sustainable.
Northwest stayed within itself and kept plugging away. One key moment occurred when Western hit back-to-back three-pointers and closed to 45-41. The Bearcats responded with a three-pointer by Haake.
With just under 5 minutes, Northwest essentially put the game away with a three-pointer by Cooper that gave the Bearcats a 57-45 lead.
“After we got the early lead, we got a little sloppy,” said Haake, who finished with 20 points. “We knew we had to buckle down because if you let these guys hang around, they will come back and bite you.”
The game started very well for Northwest.
As nice as it was for Northwest to go on a 17-2 run to take an early 17-4 lead, the most impressive moment came with 7 seconds remaining in the first half.
Seconds earlier, Western closed to one on a long three-pointer by Reed Mells. The Griffons had all the momentum.
McCollum called a timeout to set up the final play of the first half. Cooper brought the ball up, worked the clock down to under 10 seconds and then dribbled inside and kicked the pass out to Haake.
With a defender in his face, Haake answered Mells’ trey with a trey. The timely basket sent the Bearcats into halftime ahead 26-22.
“That was big because the momentum had swung and we were having trouble putting the ball in the hole,” Northwest coach Ben McCollum said. “We weren’t getting loose balls so we needed something to go our way going into half.
“We went in there and said hey guys we didn’t play as well as we would have liked, but we still have a four-point lead.”
It made sense to go to Haake. He had the hot hand in the first half, sinking all five of his shots, including two, three-pointers for 12 points.
“Our offense got a little sluggish,” Haake said. “Coach brought me back in just before half and Coop got me open so it was real big. We needed that.”
Northwest, though, could have been a little upset going into halftime with a four-point lead. It could have been more. The Bearcats shot a blistering 56 percent from the field and held Western to 35 percent. Ten turnovers prevented Northwest from building a bigger lead.
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