March 4, 2013
Three-point barrage carries Bearcats past Griffons
By David Boyce
In most cases, a basketball coach would have major concerns going into halftime after his team went 2 for 8 inside the three-point arc.
But five total points inside the arc is forgivable when you go 10 for 17 from three-point range and defensively, suffocate the air out of your opponent’s offense.
Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball played a near flawless first half and took a 21-point lead into halftime against rival Missouri Western in the first round of the MIAA Tournament.
The blistering hot outside shooting in the first half inside a rocking Bearcat Arena Monday evening propelled Northwest to an easy 66-46 victory over Western.
It was the last game for longtime Missouri Western coach Tom Smith, who is retiring after 36 years as a head coach.
“I respect Tom Smith quite a bit,” Northwest coach Ben McCollum said. “We are going to miss him in conference.”
Smith’s story is for the Western folks to tell.
The news in Bearcat nation is the splendid way Northwest played to advance to the quarterfinals. Northwest, 19-9 overall, will face Northeastern State, 19-7, 2:15 p.m. Thursday at historic Municipal Auditorium.
The Bearcats never gave their rival a glimmer of hope. Western came in as the 12th and final seed in the conference tournament, and Northwest made the Griffons feel that way from the outset.
Northwest scored the first eight points, six of which came on three-pointers by seniors DeAngelo Hailey and Alex Sullivan. Sullivan was just warming up.
Sullivan finished with a game-high 27 points and Hailey added 21.
The only sloppy moments for the Bearcats came when they held a 10-2 lead. They missed a couple of easy layups and even a breakaway dunk that was quite humorous only because Northwest was in such command.
Western took advantage of the few miscues by the Bearcats and closed to 10-6. But it was obvious Northwest was going to make the Griffons work hard for every single point.
“We came out and fought and fought and fought,” Sullivan said.
Once Northwest defense was in lockdown mode, the Bearcats could focus on busting Western zone defense.
“I love playing against zone because I get a lot of open looks,” Sullivan said. “We got Wally (Matt Wallace) finding us in open gaps.
“Coming off our last game when I went 0-for-10, I knew I had some shots to go in. I was due for a good game.”
The three-point machine cranked up with a trey by freshman Conner Crooker, which prompted a boisterous student section to chant: “he’s our freshman.”
Crooker’s three-pointer made it 13-6. The stage was now set for the senior. Sullivan made back-to-back three-pointers, increasing Northwest’s lead to 19-6.
Crooker rejoined the three-point show with a trey to make it 22-6. Sullivan followed with his fourth three-pointer of the half to put Northwest up 25-6 with 13:45 left in the first half.
The game was basically over, but the fun was just beginning. Northwest made three more treys and went into halftime with a commanding 35-14 lead.
“I felt they had a lot less energy after we made three after three,” Crooker said.
Northwest made sure the Griffons didn’t entertain any comeback thoughts. The Bearcats scored the first five points in the second half, the last three coming on a trey by Sullivan that pushed the lead to 40-14.
The lack of inside baskets didn’t bother McCollum.
“When the guys have it going like that, you keep shooting, keep firing it up there,” McCollum said.
With such a huge advantage, the Bearcats lost a little focus, allowing Western to close the lead to 42-25.
Northwest quickly regrouped and scored the next seven points for a 49-27 lead.
The only mystery that remained was whether Sullivan could break his record for three-pointers in one game. He had eight earlier in the season against Western. Sullivan had four opportunities in the final 90 seconds but missed.
“I wanted it so bad, but I will take the win,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan finished with eight treys and those baskets helped to end Western’s season.
For more information, please contact:
Media Relations Department, Northwest Athletics
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