Dec. 5, 2012
Bearcats outlast Lions in OT, 73-66
By David Boyce
Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team never trailed in its MIAA opener against Lindenwood Wednesday evening at Bearcat Arena.
That must have meant the Bearcats breezed past the conference newcomer. That is a wrong assumption.
Despite an 18-point lead in the second half, Northwest needed overtime to pull out a 73-66 victory.
Defense in overtime keyed the Bearcats seventh win in seven games. Northwest held Lindenwood scoreless in the first four minutes of overtime.
Meanwhile, the Bearcats opened overtime with a three-pointer by senior Alex Sullivan.
Sullivan, who finished with 18 points, said the defense and focus were the reasons Northwest succeeded in overtime.
“Going into OT after 40 minutes of play, everybody is worn down and tired and that’s when everybody needs to lock down and focus, which we did,” Sullivan said.
Offense from two different areas also helped.
Junior Dillon Starzl followed Sullivan’s trey with a turnaround shot in the paint to give Northwest a 65-60 lead.
“I was proud of myself a little bit,” said Starzl, who finished with 13 points. “I got a lucky bounce.”
Although the Bearcats let a huge lead at home slip away, they showed grit by pulling out the win when one of their top players, DeAngelo Hailey, fouled out just before overtime.
Northwest built a 69-63 lead in overtime when Lindenwood made one last push on a three-pointer by Alex Bazzell.
Junior Bryston Williams put the game away with four free throws in the final 30 seconds.
“I knew we would step up and hit free throws late and Bryston stepped up,” Starzl said.
In the first six minutes of the second half, the points were coming a little too easy for the Bearcats. Hailey, who finished with 18, was knocking down three-pointers. Sullivan hit one that gave Northwest a commanding 51-33 lead.
The outcome appeared obvious.
Doubt entered the picture when the Bearcats scored just a point over the next 7 minutes, allowing Lindenwood to creep back in. Northwest lead slipped to 52-42.
The three-pointers stopped falling and evening a couple of layups failed to drop.
“We definitely had a couple of rough rounds when we were missing some shots,” Sullivan. “We need to move on to the next play and not dwell on the misses or turnovers.”
The drought finally stopped for the Bearcats when Kyle Schlake grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed layup and scored. The bucket gave Northwest a 54-42 lead with 7:30 left. Schlake finished with a game-high 10 rebounds.
The 12-point cushion wasn’t enough to prevent Northwest from coasting home.
Lindenwood closed to seven at 54-47 on a three-point by Darris Smith. It was the closest the Lions were to Northwest since the first minute of the second half.
The Bearcats showed they know how to respond to a bit of pressure. Sullivan quickly answered Smith’s trey with a trey.
But Lindenwood would not go away. They wasted little time cutting into a 10-point deficit. A three-pointer by Bazzell helped the Lions close to 59-54 with 2:45 left. Thirty seconds later, Bazzell scored on a layup, shrinking Northwest’s lead to 59-56.
With 12.7 seconds left, Lindenwood forged the first tie of the game at 60-60 on two free throws by Bazzell.
Northwest failed to get a good shot off in the final seconds which forced overtime.
“We need to maintain and not get content when we do have the lead and get comfortable,” Sullivan said. “Once we get them down, we got to keep them down and work on that.”
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