Nov. 2, 2013
Men's Basketball hosts Graceland in ExhibitionBy David Boyce | Men's Basketball vs. Graceland | Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013 | 2 p.m.
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MARYVILLE, Mo. - One thing Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball coach Ben McCollum wants to mark off 2 p.m. Sunday when his team faces Graceland in an exhibition game at Bearcat Arena is working out the jitters of playing in front of a crowd again.
It is something the Bearcats should have out of the way when they play their first regular season game against Upper Iowa on Nov. 9, in Marshall, Minn.
Plenty of excitement should greet the 2013-14 Bearcats. They are coming off a season in which they finished 21-10 overall and 11-7 in the MIAA. They nearly made the trip to the NCAA Division II regional for a second straight season.
An overtime loss to Central Missouri in the MIAA Tournament championship game ended Northwest’s season. It was a remarkable run when you consider they started the season without point guard DeShaun Cooper.
“Our excitement is pretty high right now, especially with having Cooper back,” senior center Kyle Schlake said. “We played last year without him and now we are bringing him back. He is a key player.
“Adding him to what we had last year is going to make the excitement higher. We are ready to get on the floor and put it all together and show everybody what we are working on.”
In the conference tournament, the Bearcats definitely showed they could overcome adversity. In the quarterfinal game, they lost freshman Connor Crooker to an eye injury at a time he was playing his best basketball of the season.
And then, late in the semifinal game, Northwest lost leading scorer DeAngelo Hailey to an ankle injury, which prevented him from playing in the championship game.
“We showed everybody how tough we are,” Schlake said. “We want to build our program around toughness. Last year was a great time to show it. When one person went down, another player stepped up and showed his toughness. We are all there for each other. I think we are one of the toughest teams around.”
And one of the most talented teams in the MIAA. The Bearcats were picked to finish second in the coaches’ poll, receiving six first place votes.
McCollum believes this year’s team will need to work on mental toughness.
“We got along ways to go with our mental toughness,” McCollum said. “Last year’s team was mentally tough, but they weren’t real hungry. This year’s team is probably the opposite of that. We are extremely hungry.”
The Bearcats are definitely ready for the season to start, Schlake said. They have had a couple of scrimmages with other schools.
McCollum used those scrimmages to show the players what they need to work on.
“Our objective is to try and get exposed in the scrimmages in particular our transition defense and rebounding,” McCollum said. “In the first scrimmage we got exposed in our transition defense and the second game we got manhandled on the boards.”
A scrimmage is nothing like a game, even an exhibition contest. Scores are not kept in a scrimmage and there isn’t a crowd cheering you on.
“It is not the same feeling as an exhibition game,” Schlake said. “I think it will prepare us for the beginning of our season. We have a lot of big games. We have to come out strong right away.”
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