Western’s change of tempo approach to the UCM Mules helped to propel them to a 91-72 victory Saturday night in the MWSU Fieldhouse.
The Griffons came out looking like a team that was on a mission and more importantly, on the same page.
Western started the game on the defensive end of the floor and it was evident from the opening possession that the team was sending a message on defense.
The team gave up an early three point shot to UCM’s Ryan Harris. However, Western made him work for the shot by pressuring the ball handler and trying to force the Mules into uncomfortable situations.
The Mules held a lead for the first three minutes of the game but the momentum changed quickly when T.J. Johnson drove into the lane and made a move to free himself up for an open layup.
The Mules inbound pass would be careless and P’Allen Stinnett stole the errant pass and dunked it to help add to the Griffons first lead of the night at 8-5.
Stinnett was given a technical foul for hanging onto the rim after the dunk, but was able to recompose himself and continue playing at a high level.
“I live for plays like that but there’s nothing I can do about getting the technical except go on and keep playing ball,” Stinnett said.
The Griffons would trade baskets with the Mules for the majority of the first half until they were able to shut down the Mules’ offense for a few possessions and take a 10 point lead into halftime.
The second half was all Western. The Griffons lead was cut to nine with 19 minutes remaining in the half, but it quickly swelled to 13 points and then eventually reached a high of 23 points midway through the second half.
Western dominated the Mules in the paint all night, as Brandon Beck pitched in with 12 points and seven rebounds, both of which were a career high. The Griffons finished the night with 46 points in the paint compared to the Mules’ 12.
Western had six players finish the night in double digits, as Stinnett led the way with 22 points, 14 of those coming in the second half.
“This season we have played at a fast-break pace and tonight we were able to slow it down and become a little more deliberate with our offense and it worked to our advantage,” head coach Tom Smith said.
Western’s team defense was a major factor in the win. They only blocked two shots and forced four steals, but relentless effort and playing together as a team on the defensive end of the court.
“Our entire team defense was great tonight and I think it was the main reason for this win tonight,” Brandon Beck said.