Jan. 30, 2014
Bearcats make it seven in a row
By David Boyce
ST. CHARLES, Mo. - Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team put in a workmanlike effort in its 63-61 victory over Lindenwood Thursday evening at Hyland Arena.
“This was a grind-it-out game,” said Northwest forward Grant Cozad. “We knew we were going to get Lindenwood’s best shot. They have been playing well.
“On the road like this, we love it. We knew it was going to be a dogfight. That is what we like.”
While lacking the heart stopping theatrics of their buzzer-beating victory over Missouri Southern last week, the outcome was every bit as impressive for the Bearcats.
To win a conference championship, a team needs to pull out gritty road wins. That is what Northwest did against a Lindenwood team that was playing with pride. For much of the game, the Lions didn’t look like a team with a losing overall record and only three wins in 11 conference games.
“This was a great victory,” said DeShaun Cooper, who finished with a game-high 18 points. “When you come into an environment like this and get a victory, it is great.
“They had a great game plan. They were holding the ball and when they got offensive board, they did it again. They wasted as much time as they possible could. This is a great win. I’m proud.”
Lindenwood forced the Bearcats to make some plays and hit some free throws in the final 2 minutes to snatch a road win.
Because the Bearcats made five of six free throws in the final 15 seconds, they improved to 15-5 overall and 10-1 in the MIAA.
Northwest only has a day to rest before it hits the hardwood again on Saturday at home against Lincoln. A year ago, Lincoln came into Bearcat Arena and shocked the Bearcats.
“We will be ready,” Cozad said. “Lincoln got us last time at home. We need to be ready because they will be ready for us. We got to come out and play our best.”
Northwest played well in the final 10 minutes against Lindenwood.
There were eight lead changes in the second half. The Bearcats took the lead for good at 46-45 on an inside basket by Dillon Starzl with 9 minutes left.
“We needed to get a stop,” Cooper said. “We weren’t getting any stops in the first half. We pride ourselves on defense and we were letting their offense overtake our defense. We had to lockdown on defense.”
The Bearcats extended their lead to 54-48 and seemed to have gained control of the game. A free throw by Cooper with 2:07 left helped Northwest maintain its six-point lead at 57-51.
Lindenwood made one more push and closed to 57-56. Cooper made three of four free throws that gave Northwest a slight cushion at 60-56. The Lions followed with a basket. Bryston Williams made two more free throws. Lindenwood responded with a three-pointer with 4 seconds left.
With a 1-point lead, Cozad made the first of two free throws. The Lions still had a chance, but a three-point attempt by Garrett Reeg clanked off the side of the iron at the buzzer, allowing Northwest to win another nail biter.
“Coop came up with some real clutch free throws and so did Bryston towards the end,” Cozad said. “Those were key for us keeping that lead.”
Northwest probably felt good going into halftime trailing 28-27. It could have been worse.
The Lions put together a spurt near the end of the first half and turned an 18-18 tie into a 26-18 advantage.
At that point, the Bearcats played some of their best basketball of the half. It started with a three-pointer from Zach Schneider followed by an inside bucket from Cooper and another scoring drive from Williams.
Lindenwood scored once more to make it 28-25 and then Northwest had its most impressive stretch. On three different occasions, the Bearcats grabbed the offensive rebound. The final one resulted in a 7-foot jumper by Conner Crooker with 1 second left before halftime.
For the most part, it was a struggle for the Bearcats in the first half. They shot 41 percent from the field while allowing Lindenwood to make half its shots.
“We played all right in the first half and turned it up in the second half,” Cozad said. “We battled through it and came out with a victory.”
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