Last Saturday, Missouri Western and 17th ranked Central Oklahoma battled back and forth in what would be a major upset by the Griffons, who won the game 83-79 at the final buzzer. The game was sealed down the stretch by five free throws from Martin Nolan and Quentin Noblin. With wins against Lincoln University on Friday and Central Oklahoma, the Griffons come to 32-4 all-time in the Hillyard Classic.
The game was ruled by mental toughness and a staunch defense on both sides. James Bush believed it was these very qualities that gave them a way to win.
“We played solid defense; it gave us the chance to win. Good defense leads to success on the offensive side of the ball.” Bush said. Unfortunately, the game did show a few faults in the Griffons, one of which was free throw shooting. Dominique Thuston was happy with the win but was not happy with their performance from the line. “We won; we came out and did what we had to do. The stronger team won. We were not great from the line, but we’re definitely going to improve on that in practice,” Thuston said.
The Griffons opened up flat in the first half with turnovers on the first three possessions, which led to an early 7-0 lead by Central Oklahoma. The Griffons shook off the rust though and responded with shots of their own and lead 15-11 at the 14:35 in the first half.
Neither team yielded to the other with five lead changes and six ties in the first half alone. The Griffons went on a late run to bring the game to 42 all at the end of the half, with the last shot coming from Quentin Noblin off an out of bounds tip in with time expiring.
The Broncos of Central Oklahoma were not cowed by the Griffons unbreakable will and started the second half with an 11-0 run. The Griffons were held scoreless for three minutes and thirty seconds, the first point of the half for the griffons coming off of a free throw by Martin Nolan. The Griffons seemed to shake off their early woes with the point from Nolan, with James Bush and Dominique Thuston adding their own shots to the mix. Unfortunately, the quick run didn’t erase the deficit accrued early and the score was 55-48 at the first media timeout of the half.
The Griffons would not be denied heading out of the media timeout with another 6-0 run and forcing the Broncos to call a timeout. Missouri Western used constant pressure during this time to cause five steals before the second media timeout. By relying on their mental toughness and defense, the Griffons were able to take the lead 70-69 at 5:02 in the second half. With two final lead changes and clutch free throw shooting from Quentin Noblin, (5-6 from the line) the Griffons sealed the game 83-79.
The game, in all its suspense, was a game of toughness. Coach Tom Smith thought the team didn’t play all that well against the Broncos, but he was glad that the team showed their tenacity and toughness. “Coming into the game, we knew this game was going to be difficult to win, and they proved us right, but we knew that this game would be decided by which team was toughest. Tonight, we definitely showed that we are a tough team, and we came out with the win,” Coach Smith said.
The stat leaders for the Griffons were Dominique Thuston with 24 points, Martin Nolan with 16 and Quentin Noblin also with 16. Both Marcus Rhodes and James Bush had a career high five steals. The free throw shooting for the team was mildly atrocious with 45 percent, but they were able to shoot extremely well from the floor with 48 percent of their shots.
The Griffons’ next home game will be against Emporia State on Saturday, Dec. 5th at 7:30 p.m.