Dec. 28, 2012
‘Cats enter final non conference tune up
By David Boyce
When Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball coach Ben McCollum put together this season basketball schedule, he figured it was a good idea to play a non conference foe before really diving into MIAA play.
So three days after coming off the mandatory week off any basketball, the Bearcats will play Central Methodist 2 p.m. Saturday at Bearcat Arena.
“Yes I did to get back into rhythm before the conference games,” McCollum said. “I’m not sure it is a good idea or not yet, because when you are two days into practice you can get kind of fatigue for a game.”
The game against Central Methodist is a tune up before Northwest, 8-2 overall and 2-0 in the MIAA, hits conference play during the winter break with four games in 13 days, starting Jan. 3 at Missouri Southern.
Northwest went into the Christmas break losing some of its momentum. The Bearcats won their first eight games, zoomed to the top 10 in NCAA Division II and headed off to Hawaii.
While the trip was memorable and will stick in the players’ minds for years to come, the outcome on the court was less than desirable.
Northwest dropped two close games, falling 59-50 to St. Edwards on Dec. 15 and the next evening losing 68-66 to Harding.
“It was tough,” McCollum said, “especially being in Hawaii two extra days and knowing you lost those two games we felt like we had a chance to win.
“Hopefully now, we will come back a little more hungry and analyze those two losses and what got us those two losses.”
The time off gave McCollum and the coaching staff an opportunity to figure out the kind of team they have and the adjustments they need to make in the second half of the season.
As for the players, they couldn’t practice together or do anything related to Northwest basketball from Dec. 20-26.
“Mentally, the kids get a break,” McCollum said. “The biggest thing is the mental part the kids get for those six days.
They returned to practice Thursday afternoon with a workout that lasted over two hours.
The Bearcats quickly got a refresher course that the air in Maryville is a bit chillier than Hawaii.
“They looked OK,” McCollum said. “They were a little out of shape and the cold air, after not doing much for six days, really kills your lungs. They will get used to it. It takes a couple of days to get back into the swing of things.”
By day three, the Bearcats will be back playing a competitive game. McCollum wants to see a trend develop of getting the ball inside more instead of settling for jump shots.
“Hopefully, we will improve on going inside and getting great shots instead of good shots,” McCollum said. “It is something we did not do in Hawaii. I just want to compete, play hard and get that rhythm we had against Nebraska-Kearney.”
In the last MIAA game, Northwest thumped Nebraska-Kearney 90-60 on Dec. 8. The victory helped the Bearcats become one of four teams to start 2-0 in MIAA play.
The road for the Bearcats gets much tougher at the start of 2013. After Missouri Southern, the Bearcats play at Pittsburg State two days later and on Jan. 12, they will play at rival Missouri Western.
The lone home game of the next seven conference games is Jan. 16 against Lincoln.
“We will have to compete, play hard and not really worry about a tough stretch and things of that nature,” McCollum said. “We have to focus on the next practice and the next game and not allow doubt to creep in. All the pressure is on the home team in our conference.
“Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks, when nobody is around and it is just basketball, we can improve.”
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