Nov. 29, 2013
Senior Williams provides spark for BearcatsBy David Boyce | Northwest at Comfort Inn/Drury Thanksgiving Classic | Nov. 29-30 | Springfieild, Mo.
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MARYVILLE, Mo. - Sometime around 2 p.m. Saturday, the legs of Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball players might become a bit heavy and the body could feel a little sore.
The Bearcats will be in the middle of their second game in two days at the Comfort Inn/Drury Thanksgiving Classic in Springfield, Mo.
If it happens, the Bearcats have a reliable energy source to get them through any physical fatigue: senior guard Bryston Williams.
“He is kind of the energy of our group,” Northwest coach Ben McCollum said. “I think he can score a little bit more than last season, but his strength is the energy he brings and the enthusiasm he plays with. To go too much away from that strength wouldn’t be a good thing for him.”
The Thanksgiving Classic is a nice test for the Bearcats before they begin conference play Thursday at home against Pittsburg State.
Northwest, 4-2, takes on Drury at 3:15 p.m. Friday and less than 24 hours later, will play Truman State at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“It really pays dividends in improving our team,” McCollum said. “When you face higher level of coaching, they take certain things away. Doing that early in the season helps you improve a significant amount for conference.
“We are excited to go down there. The second day is all about toughness. The first day you can prepare quite a bit for.”
In Williams’ mind, the Bearcats prepared for this on Tuesday with a home game against Peru State. Northwest won 83-60 for its third straight victory.
“I feel we have played pretty well,” said Williams, who scored 11 points against Peru State. “We have had good spurts. I feel we also have had some rough spots that we need to fix so we are consistent.”
The expectations are high for the Bearcats. They were picked to finish second in the MIAA preseason poll. The five seniors on the squad have experienced back-to-back 20-win seasons.
The Bearcats, though, quickly learned that they have to do more than just show up to win. After winning their opener, they lost two straight.
“I think we learned that we got to bring it every day,” Williams said. “Just because the hype is there, don’t mean we are going to win the game. We have to come and execute every time we step on the floor.”
McCollum said the team simply did not show up in the 72-50 loss to Southwest Minnesota. “That was kind of a freak deal,” McCollum added. “It can’t happen again.
“Midwestern State I thought we competed well. It will help us against Drury to understand if you have a chance to beat a team like that, you have to make sure you keep them down and don’t give up offensive rebounds, turn the ball over and make sure you finish the game.”
Williams is part of a senior class that wants to get Northwest back to the NCAA Division II tournament and build the program into one that is at that level every season.
“It is really fun to see how far we have come and how hard we worked through the years to where it pays off and we can enjoy it with each other,” Williams said.
“I feel this is an important year. We want to show the younger class what it takes to win. So when the seniors leave, they know how to practice and prepare for big games and bring that energy every day.”
Energy is something Williams has in abundance.
“I feel my role is to be a leader, bring a lot of energy and to help the teammates on the court by getting them open, creating their shots and knocking down shots that Dillon Starzl and DeShaun Cooper are going to create,” Williams said.
It is going to take a complete team effort for the Bearcats to leave Springfield with two more victories.
“These games are very important,” Williams said. “These are two good teams we are going to play. If we can execute and play well against them, it will give us motivation going into conference. Two wins back to back against two good teams is big.”
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