With a roster full of relatively new faces, the Missouri Western men’s basketball team has gotten off to their best start
in three years.
After missing the conference tournament the last two seasons, the Griffons are making noise in the MIAA this season. The Griffons are 4-3 in conference play and 7-7 overall. After the last two seasons this team is living up to its potential. Head coach Tom Smith believes the Griffons’ season has been like a roller coaster ride.
“We have had a lot of ups and downs so far this season,” Smith said. “At times we have played very well beating and competing with good teams and at other times we have looked lost.”
The Griffons’ greatest win of the young season was their victory overall rival Northwest at Bearcat Arena. The 66-63 win snapped a six game losing streak at the Bearcat Arena. Dominique Thuston was the Griffons’ leading scorer with 19 points; Marcus Rhodes, who finished with 17, followed him. This was also the first time the Griffons beat the Bearcats since Feb. 15, 2006. Smith believes ending this streak was good for Missouri Western.
“We have played games at Northwest for conference championships, it wasn’t up to the standards of that, but it was still a good win,” Smith said. “I think anytime that you go on the road and win in the MIAA it is good for your team.”
Thuston has led the Griffons in scoring this season. He averages 15.2 points per game and he is also leading the team in blocks per game at 0.7. A close second on the team is Lonnel Johnson, who is averaging 14.4 points per game. The only other Griffon who averages double figures in scoring is James Bush, who averages 11.5 points per game.
The MIAA is top loaded with many high quality teams. The best team in the conference is Southwest Baptist. They are arguably the best team in Division II basketball and are ranked number two in the country. They also had an exhibition win this season over Division I school University of Utah. There are three other teams in the conference with at least 12 wins. Those teams are Missouri Southern, Emporia State and Central Missouri. The conference is one of the best conferences in the country and Smith knows his team will have to improve to be a competitor in the MIAA.
“We will have to continue to get better defensively and we need to shoot the ball better as a team,” Smith said.
The Griffons will be back in action as they travel to face Truman State Jan. 14. They will then return home for games against Central Missouri on Jan. 17 and against Southwest Baptist on Jan. 21. Both games will be at 7 p.m. at Looney Complex.