Feb. 19, 2013
Bearcats look for revenge vs rival Griffons
Tipoff: Wednesday 7:30 p.m.
Stadium: Bearcat Arena
Radio: Bearcat Radio Network
John Coffey (play-by-play), Matt Gaarder (color);
Heard on on seven stations that covers four states in the Midwest, and on the Internet from the flagship station KXCV.
Rankings (NABC Top 25)
Missouri Western: NR
Series: Northwest leads the all-time series 41-35. The Griffons snapped a five-game losing streak to the Bearcats with a 71-58 win in St. Joseph last month.
Northwest: Ben McCollum (Northwest '03) 60-46 (4th season)
Missouri Western: Tom Smith (Valparasio '73) 613-453 (25th season at MWSU 8th overall)
Game Quick Links
By David Boyce
Energy should be at a season-high inside Bearcat Arena Wednesday evening when Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball takes on rival Missouri Western.
A little over a month ago, Northwest traveled to St. Joseph and suffered a somewhat shocking 71-58 loss to the Griffons. At the time, Western was struggling and the Bearcats were rolling after two impressive road wins at Missouri Southern and Pittsburg State.
The Bearcats definitely do not want to lose to their rivals twice in one season, particularly since Northwest has so much riding on its final few MIAA games.
Northwest, 16-8 overall and 9-6 in the MIAA, is still fighting for one of the top four seeds and a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
Western, 9-13 and 5-9, is fighting for a spot in the tournament, something the Bearcats have already clinched. The bottom three teams in the MIAA don’t get to play in the tournament.
“I think they are looking forward to it,” Northwest coach Ben McCollum said. “It is a big game. There will be a big crowd. There is only one game a year our fans expect us to win and that is against Mo West at home. We are going to need to come out and play hard and compete.”
Those are the ingredients for Bearcat success in each game.
After dropping three straight, Northwest got that winning effort on Saturday in a 63-61 victory over No. 25 Washburn.
Junior center Dillon Starzl, still battling a sore knee, played 26 minutes and scored eight points.
“I think he is starting to get there,” McCollum said. “He is still not at full strength. We need him. He is a pretty good basketball player.”
Sophomore Grant Cozad, who played well when Starzl was out, continues to improve. His contributions against Washburn were important in the victory. He came off the bench and scored 11 points.
“He has been playing a lot tougher,” McCollum said. “He has been getting rebounds and finishing inside. He has been doing a really good job inside.”
Freshman Conner Crooker had one of his better games in his young, collegiate career. He made six of eight shots from the field and finished with 16 points.
“We ran some plays for him,” McCollum said. “He has really been controlling the games. He has been excellent. We are really going to need him against Missouri Western.”
Actually, McCollum needs all his players to play with the type of energy he saw against Washburn.
“It was a good game,” McCollum said. “I thought we played with energy to start. We hit some shots, too. We cut down some sets and kept it really simple. The energy was the most important part, though.”
Counting the Western game, the Bearcats have just three regular-season conference games remaining. Northwest is in position to finish strong. All three opponents are in the bottom half of the conference standings.
Still, Northwest figures to get Western and Truman’s best shot. Western and Truman are fighting for the final spot in the tournament.
“It is huge to finish strong and more importantly, be ready for every game and bring energy and effort. If we can do that we should be OK because we have a pretty good basketball team. There are games we don’t quite bring it and those are the games we get beat.”
McCollum is not sure the win against Washburn gave his team a confidence boost.
“I kind of think it is game to game,” McCollum said. “It is such a mental grind in this conference, night in and night out. We played against Washburn, which is pretty traditional. They keep it simple.
“Now, we play Mo. West and they play zone all the time. It is a weird conference, a weird schedule. It’s a mental grind.”
McCollum wants his team to be in the right frame of mind from here on out. He wants energy and he should get it Wednesday night.
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