Jan. 16, 2013
Blue Tigers upset Bearcats 70-65
By David Boyce
During the course of a long basketball season, a team will have a poor performance and lose a game that causes people across the conference to scratch their heads.
Hopefully, Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team had its only head-scratching loss.
On Wednesday evening at Bearcat Arena, Northwest lost 70-65 to a Lincoln squad that picked up only its third victory in 17 games and was sitting at the very bottom of the MIAA.
“If we haven’t hit rock bottom then I don’t know what rock bottom feels like,” Northwest coach Ben McCollum said. “This is as bad as it gets.
“Lincoln played great. They slowed the tempo. They controlled the game. They played good. They made free throws down the stretch. You have to credit them, too.”
It was the second loss in a row for Northwest, which fell to 11-4 overall and 4-2 in the MIAA.
The Bearcats have two days to figure out what has gone wrong the last two games. Northwest returns to action late Saturday afternoon in its first-ever game at Central Oklahoma. Northwest must rediscover the formula that saw it win games at Missouri Southern and Pittsburg State earlier this month.
“We need to focus and look ourselves in the mirror and get back to the basics,” senior Alex Sullivan said. “Our coaches stress this a lot that we need to stay with our identity and work with our strength. We have to guard the ball better.”
The Bearcats never found an offensive rhythm against Lincoln. That was never more evident than the first six minutes of the second half.
Northwest trailed by nine at halftime, but held Lincoln scoreless in the opening 5 minutes, 50 seconds of the second half.
In that period, Northwest scored just two field goals and trimmed four points off its deficit. The Bearcats had many more opportunities to score, but a few turnovers and a missed layup contributed to their offensive malaise.
“They zoned us again,” McCollum said. “We got wide open shots from the start. They weren’t even close to contesting them. You miss a couple of shots and you get a little gun shy and then all of a sudden we can’t hit any. On top of that, when you can’t score, your energy depletes and that’s kind of the story of the game. They outplayed us.”
When Lincoln finally scored in the second half for a 37-30 lead, Northwest was in danger of losing.
Lincoln regained the hot touch it had in the first half and pushed its advantage to 48-37.
The Bearcats lacked the offensive firepower to threaten Lincoln until the final 90 seconds when Northwest closed to 60-56 with 51 seconds left. The Blue Tigers made enough free throws to prevent a miracle comeback by Northwest.
Amazingly, Northwest had one last chance after a three-pointer by DeAngelo Hailey with 17 seconds left made it 68-65.
Lincoln quickly turned the ball over, showing why it has won so few games. Northwest had a chance to tie with 13 seconds left, but Hailey’s three-point attempt was blocked.
The Blue Tigers got the ball back, was fouled and made two free throws to ice the game.
“If we played with as much energy the whole game as we did in the last minute and a half, we will be fine,” Sullivan said.
It made sense that Lincoln was the first team out at halftime. The Blue Tigers were anxious to continue playing after putting together perhaps their best basketball of the season.
Lincoln went into halftime ahead 35-26. The Blue Tigers made six three-pointers and led most of the first half.
The Bearcats held a slim 6-5 lead when Lincoln got hot and built an 18-12 advantage that grew to 30-18.
Northwest put together a spurt and closed to 30-25. Usually, that is the breaking point for Lincoln. But in the first half, the Blue Tigers answered the challenge and outscored Northwest 5-1 in the closing minutes.
The one bright spot for Northwest was freshman guard Lyle Harris, who came off the bench late in the second half and scored 10 points in 3 minutes, making all four of his field goal attempts.
“He played great,” McCollum said. “He brings a different dynamic. He is a powerful driver. Maybe that’s what we needed.”
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