March 2, 2012
Bearcats rally for first round win over SBU
By David Boyce
KANSAS CITY, MO. – Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team trailed the first 26 minutes of the game against Southwest Baptist Friday night at Municipal Auditorium.
Part of it for the Northwest Bearcats was early-game jitters of playing in their first MIAA Tournament since 2008. Another part was SBU continued its hot outside shooting from a week and a half ago when Baptist drained all seven three-pointers in the second half against Northwest.
But in the second half, Northwest gave SBU a nasty dose of three-point fever that was just too hot for the Baptist Bearcats to handle.
The barrage of three-pointers by Northwest midway through the second half carried the team to a 74-62 victory.
“Once we got past the first 15 minutes of the game we started to lock in defensively and offensively, we started to get some penetration and pitch. We played our game after that,” said Northwest coach Ben McCollum.
Northwest, 22-5, will play Pittsburg State, 16-13 in the semifinals at 8:15 p.m. The Bearcats beat the Gorillas twice during the regular season.
For a while, it appeared No. 6 SBU, which ended its season at 18-12, were poised to make a Cinderella run in the tournament. SBU made the first bucket in the second half and held a 35-29 lead.
A couple of minutes later, Northwest began its climb to the lead with a traditional three-point play. Senior Jake Reinders grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back in and was fouled. He made the free throw to pull Northwest within one at 35-34.
Still, the Northwest could not quite take the next step and move ahead. It finally occurred with 13:53 left when Alex Sullivan, using his old school set shot, drained a three-pointer that gave Northwest a 40-39 lead.
“We put an emphasis on just doing what we are capable of doing and staying within ourselves and sticking to our strengths,” said Sullivan, who finished with 13 points.
Baptist responded with a three-pointer and then went ice cold from behind the arc.
Northwest got blistering hot from downtown. First, Reinders gave Northwest the lead for good at 42-41with an inside bucket.
With 11:50 left, Sullivan hit a three-pointer and then hit another one that pushed Northwest’s lead to 50-43.
Baptist never recovered.
Northwest never gave Baptist a chance to recover, especially when Haake made a three-pointer to make it 53-45.
Northwest took its first double-digit lead at 61-50 with about 6 minutes left on another three-pointer by Justin Clark.
Meanwhile, Baptist kept clanking three-pointers.
“It was a lot of fun tonight,” Sullivan said. “I was getting open looks. Coach said to shoot it when I’m open. I just try to keep simple. When I keep my game simple, good things happen.”
Northwest went seven for 10 beyond the arc in the second half and Baptist was a woeful one for 13 for 7.7 percent in the second half.
“Coach challenged us at halftime to come out and shut those guys down,” said Reinders, who finished with 11 points. “When we played them last time they really took it to us. We wanted to play with a chip on our shoulders.”
For the most part, Northwest kept pace with SBU from the three-point arc in the first half. Baptist made five in nine tries and Northwest hit four in nine attempts.
The problem for Northwest was the inside play of Robson Memnon. He scored four times in the paint and even made a three-pointer. His 11 points in the first 20 minutes helped Baptist take a 32-27 halftime lead.
The early miscues contributed to the Bearcats’ 12-5 deficit. A couple of three-pointers by Haake relaxed Northwest as it closed to 14-13.
“I felt there was some (jitters), but the team that we are, I knew we would overcome it,” said DeShaun Cooper, who finished with 17 points. “I was ready for everybody to come together and now it is time to play.”
Northwest, though, never tied or took a lead in the first half. And when Memnon got in an inside groove, SBU built a 30-22 lead late in the first half.
A jumper by Tyler Funk followed by a three-pointer by Clark pulled Northwest to within three at 30-27.
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