After an onslaught of defensive war between Western and Washburn, the Griffons lost 43-56, unable to close the small lead Washburn held throughout the game. Then, in the last few minutes of the game, Washburn finally blew past Western, solidifying their lead.
Head Coach Tom Smith expressed his reason why Western was unable to close the lead.
“I think Washburn had a lot more zip to their step tonight than we did,” Smith said.
It also didn’t help that Western underperformed there shooting average, with a 31.1% from the floor compared to the 61% against South Baptist University.
“Like coach said, we [weren’t] hitting any outside shots any way,” said James Bush, “That right there was the key.”
Washburn was also able to use a zone defense against Western which prevented the Griffons from performing par or above. Marcus Rhodes had particular trouble driving the lane.
“In the zone it was clogged up so it was kind of hard trying to get in the lane and find shooters,” Rhodes said, “But then it’s kind of hard when…when you’re a good three point shooting team.”
During the game, Western attempted 26 three pointers and only succeeded in sinking four. Washburn had double the percentage in both three pointers and floor shots. The Griffons were able to nearly tie Washburn’s free throw average, 64.7% to Washburn’s 65%.
Players and coaches on both teams agreed that Washburn’s zone defense, which was new to Western, not only through the Griffons for a surprise, but also destroyed Rhodes usual offensive tactics.
Using such an atypical defensive strategy forced Washburn to give up some of their offensive devices. Washburn Head Coach Bob Chipman acknowledged this trade off.
“We fought them hard on the board, I thought the Zone bothered them, that was probably the difference of the game,” Chipman said, “[William McNeill] didn’t have his offensive game but we won it and he was fighting hard like everybody and they were eventually spending more energy offensively.”
Even with this loss the Griffons still have a chance to compete in the NCAA tournament, depending on which team advances in the MIAA and competes in the championship.
“We haven’t been to the regional since 2003 and we’ve definitely earned it, but there’s still that chance we could get bumped out,” Smith said.
“I just feel like it would be a big disappointment,” Rhodes said shaking his head.
Western faces the best chance of competing in the regional MIAA if the University of Nebraska-Omaha wins the semi final round against Emporia state.