Feb. 8, 2012
No. 18 Bearcats blitz Blue Tigers, 80-60
By David Boyce
Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team scored the first nine points of the game against Lincoln University Wednesday evening at Bearcat Arena.
Midway through the first half, the Bearcats held a 15-point lead. They went into halftime ahead by 14.
At no point in the game was there doubt that Northwest would come away with its fifth straight win.
The Bearcats, ranked 18th in NCAA Division II, cruised to an 80-60 victory and improved to 18-3 overall and 12-3 in the MIAA.
“You have to realize that even though they are not having the best season this year, we have to focus on what we can control,” said Northwest junior Justin Clark. “We have to play hard as much as possible and do what we have to do to get a win.”
Although the Bearcats had a few sloppy moments late in the first half because of their huge lead, they made numerous plays throughout the first 20 minutes to show why they are having a special season.
It started with the first points of the game. Senior Jake Reinders grabbed an offensive rebound and converted it for a bucket.
Rebounding wins games.
“It is important to get those second-chance points, especially for the game at hand and to prepare for the next game as well,” said Reinders, who finished with 13 points.
“You want to have the mentality that you are getting every loose ball. You are playing Bearcat basketball. That’s one of our big things, second-chance points.”
Later in the first half, junior guard DeShaun Cooper drove the lane and kicked the ball in the corner for Justin Clark, who drained a wide-open three-pointer to increase Northwest lead to 24-8.
Breaking down a defense to create an open shot for a teammate wins games.
With DeShaun and Matt Wallace, our guards will find you,” Clark said. “It is always good to know that you have point guards that will find you. You always get your feet ready and ready to shoot it.”
A few minutes later, Clark was 1-on-1 with a Lincoln defender on a fast break. Instead of going for a contested lay-up, Clark dishes the ball back to Cooper who goes in for a layup. Lincoln fouled Cooper and he made both free throws, putting the Bearcats up 27-14.
Unselfish play wins games.
“Doing things like that keeps a team together and keeps us focused on what we need to keep doing,” Clark said. “We came out strong, but we started to get a little lackadaisical.”
To emphasize the unselfish point, Northwest concluded the first half with freshman Matt Wallace driving hard to the basket on a fast break. At the last second, he tossed a nifty, behind –the-back pass to a trailing teammate. Junior Bryston Williams caught the pass and scored a crowd-pleasing layup to give the Bearcats a 37-23 halftime lead.
“I’ve always grown up knowing I’m a pass-first guard,” Wallace said. “It’s how my dad taught me. I feel like for us to get points, we (guards) have to be unselfish.”
Lincoln shot 31 percent from the field in the first half.
Defense wins games.
“Fundamentals win games,” Wallace said. “If you are not playing good defense or making good passes or playing fundamentally, you are not going to win the game.”
Northwest was supposed to beat Lincoln, which dropped to 3-18 overall and 3-12 in the MIAA.
The Bearcats might have been able to beat Lincoln without playing a fundamentally sound game.
Winning teams play fundamentally sound basketball regardless of an opponent’s record.
Northwest did so many of the necessary things to beat Lincoln that it was easy to see Wednesday night why the Bearcats are battling for first in the MIAA.
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Phillip Dowden, Media Relations/Sports Information
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