Jan. 17, 2012
Bearcats and Lions tangle as league's top teams
MARYVILLE, Mo. – First-place Northwest Missouri State travels south for a Top 25 matchup with second-place Missouri Southern on Wednesday to close out the first half of league play.
With their best record since the 2003-04 season, the Bearcats look to gain solid footing heading into the second half of the MIAA schedule. At 7-2 in MIAA play and positioned atop the league standings, Northwest enters a crucial three-game road swing, starting with the Lions, before traveling to Emporia State and Washburn.
After a light bump a week ago at Central Missouri, the Bearcats erased all doubts they are contenders for their first MIAA Title since a co-championship with the Mules in 2007. Although Northwest has not won an outright title since 1987, the Bearcats have claimed three shared titles since.
Northwest’s 57.9 average points allowed per game average is ninth best in all of Division II, and the Bearcats have bought into the defense mentality that forces teams to earn each basket.
“Defense is something we have worked on from day one,” assistant coach Austin Meyer said. “When you spend as much time on it as we do, our guys realize its importance. And for us it’s the most important thing.”
Senior Jake Reinders and Kyle Haake have been a big part of the Bearcats 13-2 start and Reinders was vastly important in Saturday’s blowout win over Southwest Baptist. The Omaha native Reinders tallied career highs in points (28) and rebounds (12) as Northwest pulled away from the purple Bearcats for a 23-point win.
Haake, a senior from Harlan, Iowa, has been lethal from three-point range and ranks among the league leaders in three-point percentage.
“Our seniors have done a good job of feeding off of what is given to them,” Meyer said. “That’s the biggest difference this year, is we have the personalities and talent that makes the person next to them better.”
“Jake and Kyle especially, have done a great job of letting the game come to them. Not trying to do too much is hard, but they both really understand the game.”
The Bearcats will have more than their work cut out for them Wednesday night in Joplin. The 23rd-ranked Lions boast the league’s top scorer in senior Keane Thomann and third-ranked scorer in senior Jason Adams.
Missouri Southern not only has experience back from last year’s NCAA South Central Region team, but has played in plenty of big games so far this season.
The Lions knocked of Northeastern State (Okla.) earlier this year in the Sprint Center in Kansas City as a part of the CBE Classic. MSSU has faced top teams in the region at the South Central Regional Challenge in Bartlesville, Okla.
When both teams tip off Wednesday night, the Bearcats will be looking for their first win over the Lions since the 2008-09 season. It would also snap a 13-game home winning streak for MSSU and would definitely make the hard work worth it.
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Media Relations Department, Northwest Athletics
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