Jan. 18, 2012
Northwest falls at No. 16 Missouri Southern 84-76
By: David Boyce
JOPLIN, MO. – The good news is Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team has a share of first place in the MIAA.
The bad news is the Bearcats lost sole possession of the top spot after falling 84-76 to Missouri Southern Wednesday night at Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
Northwest, which dropped to 13-3 overall, fell to 7-3 in the MIAA and is now tied with Southern, which is 15-3 overall. Central Missouri and Washburn are also 7-3, creating an intriguing logjam as the MIAA teams head into the second half of conference play.
“We are still hungry,” said Northwest junior DeShaun Cooper. “It’s not about sharing first place. We want first place by ourselves. We are going to come out on Sunday against Emporia State because they are the only team in the way. We are going to take our anger out on them.”
The Bearcats showed plenty of fight against a talented Southern team picked to win the MIAA in the preseason poll.
Northwest held just two brief leads in the second half against Southern. A basket by Justin Clark gave the Bearcats a 65-64 lead with 7 minutes remaining. Less than a minute later, Northwest took its last lead at 67-66 on a field goal by DeAngelo Hailey.
Southern regained the lead for good on a three-pointer by Jason Adams. After he knocked down the long three-pointer for a 70-67 lead, he raced down the court, pumping his chest.
Adams had an all-star caliber game, finishing with 31 points.
“What hurts you, but doesn’t hurt you is the tough shots he hits,” Northwest coach Ben McCollum said. “It’s the layups in transitions, the back-cut lobs and the easy buckets he gets that really hurts you.
“The other stuff you have to live with it. He’s going to make it or miss it and you don’t have anything to say about that. But you do about the other stuff. We didn’t do a good job of limiting his easy opportunities.”
Northwest never backed down. They stayed within striking distance until Southern pushed its advantage to 80-73 with 1:20 left.
Cooper said a lack of concentration hurt the Bearcats down the stretch.
“I felt we didn’t concentrate,” said Copper, who finished with 12 points and seven assists. “Near the end I wasn’t where I was supposed to be with the ball and the team wasn’t where it was supposed to be with the ball. I felt we weren’t concentrating as a team. It was a team loss.”
But there were so many encouraging signs that it is inevitable that Northwest will begin to pick up some road conference wins. The Bearcats want it to begin in earnest on Sunday at Emporia State.
Other than the opening 6-0 lead, Northwest trailed the rest of the first half. But the Bearcats sure played an entertaining 20 minutes. They trailed only 38-36 at the break.
“I thought we started very well,” McCollum said. “We’ve started slow in the past. Once we got off to a good start, our defense usually picks up in the second half generally. We just didn’t get stops when we needed to get them.”
A big reason why the Bearcats stayed close was the hot shooting of Clark, who drained a couple of three-pointers and added a few mid-range jumpers that helped Northwest trim a 23-15 deficit to 29-25.
“I’m just trying to get wins,” Clark said. “That’s all I know. Scoring will come. I’m just trying to win.”
The Bearcats shot very well from the field in the first half, hitting 15 of 29 shots for 51.7 percent. Southern was almost as hot, shooting 45 percent from the field.
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