Jan. 20, 2012
Unselfish ‘Cats open 2nd half at Emporia
Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team is poised to take the next step.
The next step is for the Bearcats to pick up a road conference victory against a team with a .500 or better record. Their next opportunity is 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Emporia State.
Locked in a four-way tie for first place with Missouri Southern, Central Missouri and Washburn, the Bearcats need to win a few more games away from Maryville if they want to hoist the MIAA regular-season crown.
“It’s a real big game just to get us going,” said Northwest junior Justin Clark. “We have struggled in road games. We need to get one to get going.”
The Bearcats are doing OK so far on the road in the rugged MIAA. In their first road conference game in mid-December Northwest lost by 19 points at Fort Hays State.
Northwest won at Lincoln and Missouri Western immediately after Christmas break. Since then, the Bearcats have suffered setbacks at Central Missouri and on Wednesday at Missouri Southern.
Against Central Missouri, the Bearcats faced a 17-point deficit before battling back late in the second half. Against Southern, the Bearcats trailed by just two points at halftime and took a couple of leads in the second half.
The Bearcats just weren’t able to close out, or more specifically, block out during the final few minutes in the second half. Those extra attempts hurt Northwest’s opportunity for a victory.
“We got to concentrate,” said Northwest junior DeShaun Cooper. “If we come out and concentrate, play as a team, we will get the win.”
Another encouraging sign, though, was when the game was slipping away from the Bearcats, nobody tried to break away from the team concept to try and win the game by himself.
“We have very unselfish players,” Clark said. “I feel it did show. It would have been easy for somebody to try to take over. We know we have players who can score. We know we play as a team. We need to keep that team mindset and we can go a long ways.”
Northwest also played one of its best offensive games on the road against Southern.
“But the defense definitely needed to step up,” Clark said. “At times, we were trying to score and not worrying about getting back in transition. We have to maintain our focus on defense and let the offense come.”
Clark likes the challenge that awaits the Bearcats.
“We need to find that rhythm,” Clark said. “It is just us out there on the court. We need to find that focus and take care of business.
The key word that the Bearcats must act on is concentration. Cooper mentioned it immediately after the loss to Southern and so did Northwest coach Ben McCollum.
“I want to see same effort and a higher level of concentration, especially on the things we preach every day,” McCollum said.
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