Feb. 5, 2011
Men complete Saturday sweep behind Allen's 19
By David Boyce
MARYVILLE, Mo.-Northwest Missouri State men's basketball team hit a potential breaking point midway through the second half.
The Bearcats let a 14-point lead against Pittsburg State slip to four primarily because it couldn't break a full-court press.
But just when the game hit the dire zone for the Bearcats, they regained composure on offense and made the necessary plays to pull out a nail-biting 65-64 victory early Saturday evening at Bearcat Arena.
"I'm sick of losing," said senior forward Elijah Allen, who finished with a game-high 19 points. "We just have to keep on grinding.
"This game was very important. This happened a lot this year and usually we would fold. But this time we responded. We stayed positive."
The key play came with Northwest clinging to a 49-45 lead. Lightning quick sophomore guard DeShaun Cooper, who pestered the Gorillas all game, made a daring drive to the basket.
"My mindset was adversity," said Cooper, who finished with 17 points. "We face it every time. We just had to overcome it and we did."
Cooper drew the defense to him and then zipped a pass to Allen who laid it in for an easy bucket.
"I knew once I drove they would collapse because they were so worried about me driving and getting to the rim," Cooper said. "I looked at Elijah and he was wide open and we made eye contact."
Although Pittsburg quickly answered with a bucket, the Bearcats had their confidence back on offense and that's all they needed to get back to the way they were playing that helped them build double-digit leads in both halves.
Allen became an unstoppable force at the 10-minute mark because of Cooper. Over the next 2 minutes, Allen made free throws, hit a short jumper and completed a traditional three-point play.
"He (Cooper) has been getting into the gut of the defense all year," Allen said. "He got in there and sucked the defense in and I got an easy bucket. He's a good point guard. He's still learning a lot, but he's going to be good."
The quick flurry of points by Allen staked Northwest to a 58-47 lead with eight minutes left.
It was just enough to help Northwest win its second straight Saturday game and improve to 6-14 overall and 4-12 in the MIAA. Pittsburg dropped to 12-8 and 8-8.
"I feel things are coming together," Cooper said. "If we keep playing together and keep playing with our heart we can win any game that we want."
The Gorillas closed to 63-61 with 1:23 left in the game. Both teams failed to score in their next possession.
Northwest finally salted the game away when Cooper calmly swished two free throws with 18.7 seconds left that gave the Bearcats a 65-61 lead. The Gorillas hit a meaningless trey at the buzzer for the final points.
Northwest played efficient offensive basketball in the first half. The Bearcats were just one made bucket away from shooting 50 percent from the field, and they made more than half their shots from beyond the three-point arc.
"That's the way we need to be," Cooper said. "If we move the ball around, we have shooters, we have drivers and we have scorers. We have everything. If we move the ball around and give everybody a feel for it, we can get whatever we want."
An early sign of the hot outside shooting came from Cooper, whose three-pointer gave the Bearcats a 12-4 lead.
A little bit later senior Arunas Simanavicius drained a trey that made it 15-8 and a few minutes after that junior Jake Petersen nailed a three-pointer that increased Northwest's lead to 22-13.
The only damper in an otherwise sunny first half came at the buzzer when Pittsburg guard Logan Jones nailed a 15-foot jumper that prevented the Gorillas from going into halftime facing a double-digit deficit.
David Boyce spent more than 20 years covering high school and small college athletics at the Kansas City Star newspaper in Missouri. He's covered six of Northwest Missouri State's seven national championship football games and recently served as a guest columnist for the MIAA.
Boyce was named KIAAA Sportswriter of the Year in 1994. He covered boxing at the Star from 1991-2004 including Tommy Morrison and worked both championship fights between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. His 1997 exclusive story on Morrison becoming HIV positive was named an Associated Press Sports Editor top 10 feature for papers serving more than 150,000.
Boyce was born in New York City and was raised in Kansas City, Kan. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1988 with a degree in journalism. He is currently one of three official scorers for the Kansas City Royals and is a contributing writer for the Royals Gameday magazine.
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