Dec. 16, 2012
Annie Mathews and Bearcats continue to grow
By David Boyce
Nearly two weeks ago, Northwest Missouri State sophomore forward Annie Mathews listened to senior point guard Ashley Thayer talk about her.
When Thayer was asked how much Mathews has improved since last year, Mathews standing to the side, giggled, eager to hear the answer.
The Bearcats were coming off their sixth victory of the season and one contributing factor was Thayer passing the ball inside to Mathews who scored.
“Annie,” Thayer said, “was a big player for us last year, but there is always room to grow. She has done a great job of stepping up, hitting big shots and getting in there and scoring.”
After the accurate assessment of Mathews’ ability as the 5-foot-10 inside force for the Bearcats, one word came naturally from her mouth.
“Thanks,” Mathews said as Thayer walked away from the interview.
When Northwest returns to action 6 p.m. Monday at home against Midland Lutheran, you can almost expect a double-double from Mathews. She already has three this season, including one in Northwest’s last game, a 67-56 conference victory over Nebraska-Kearney. In that game, Mathews scored 13 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.
Mathews, though, has the mindset to get her teammates just as involved in scoring. When the ball gets in her hands, her first thought is not to heave it up to the basket.
Unselfish play from Mathews is guaranteed when Northwest plays its final game of 2012. The Bearcats are 7-2 overall and 2-0 in the MIAA.
Mathews is one of the reasons why Northwest has already won more games than last season. She is averaging 10.7 points and 7.9 rebounds while shooting 53 percent from the field.
“She is huge offensively,” Northwest coach Mark Kellogg said. “She has a skill set and she’s our strongest kid. She probably needs to score a little more on the perimeter. She has the ability. She does not understand how to use all of that.”
At times, Mathews passes up wide-open 15-foot shots. Instead, she looks to pass the ball inside for an easier shot or gets it back to the point guard to reset a play.
“A lot of it has been to teach Annie to have that mindset to kind of dominate,” Kellogg said. “We expect you to score when you get the ball.
“She has taken a huge step from when I first got here. She just deferred all the time. We don’t want her to defer. We have to have her score.”
Part of it is Mathews, like the rest of her teammates, is adjusting to a new coach with a new system.
“It’s like 15 freshmen for him,” Mathews said. “Between Stein (former Head Coach Gene Steinmeyer) and Coach Kellogg, they are way different coaches basically in all aspects. It did take some time. It taught us all to pull together as a team and adjust to him.”
Mathews learned a lot last season. She played in all 28 games a year ago and started the final 16. She averaged 4.6 points and 4.8 rebounds.
“I think it benefited me a lot,” she said. “Last year I got significant minutes. I got the experience last year so I kind of knew the difference from high school and the level of play. It helped me become a smarter player.”
It is all coming together now. In the last four games, Mathews is averaging 12.5 points and 9.3 rebounds.
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