Griffon men’s basketball took the floor for the second time in three days Monday at the MWSU Field House and improved to 2-0 on the season, dominating Manhattan Christian College 87-46.
“We played better than we did the other night, actually,” coach Tom Smith said. “I thought they played better in terms of being sounder defensively.”
The Griffons failed to get off to a hot start early and found themselves trailing their Division III opponent 23-17 with 8:30 left in the first half.
James Harris tied the game at 25 with a transition layup, and the Griffons went on a 22-6 run in the last six minutes of the first half. The score was 47-31 at the break.
The Griffons blocked shots, forced turnovers and turned their good defense into transition offense in the second half. Manhattan Christian didn’t score its first two points of the second half until five minutes in, and the Griffons were already in control of the game, leading 56-35.
“That’s something we had in our mind coming into the season,” Levonte Douglas said. “That’s something we really want everyone to focus on, is defense this year.”
T.J. Johnson led all scorers with 22 points and he grabbed 7 rebounds. Johnson shot 8-for-11 from the field and 5-for-6 from the free throw line. After missing three shots early in the game, he found his jumper and showed his outside game and his ability to get to the basket.
“I think I came in tonight, and I settled down,” said Johnson. “I kept shooting. Like coach always says, good shooters keep shooting, so I just was trying to find a way to put it in the bucket.”
Coming off a double-double, Levonte Douglas was effective in the paint for a second straight game, converting 6-8 from the field. Douglas scored 16 points and pulled down 7 rebounds.
“Lavonte plays hard,” Smith said. “Most post guys can’t play at that level and be as tough as he can be.”
Douglas knows that his regular D-II competition will be tougher than what he has seen in his first two games of the season, but is confident he can continue his strong play.
“That’s for everybody,” Douglas said. “Any team that steps on this floor is getting that.”
Harris added 12 points, three assists and two steals. All 13 Griffons saw playing time in the blowout win, and all but one player scored.
Freshman Freddie Manwayu showed potential to be a defensive asset with his athleticism going forward. Manwayu blocked four shots in his ten minutes of playing time.
An area where the Griffons struggled was shooting from behind the three point line. They went 5-21 from distance against the Crusaders.
“I think we are all trying to find ourselves a little bit. Our outside shooting is awful right now,” Smith said. “We scored 87 points because of the transition off our defense.”
The Griffons out-rebounded Manhattan Christian 48-35 and won the turnover battle 25-12. Western outscored Manhattan Christian 50-16 in the paint and shot 47.9% from the field, and the Griffons’ bench provided 37 points.
“In basketball you always got room for improvement,” Johnson said. “We played these two teams, we got two wins under our belt. Now we got two well coached teams ahead, so we got to come out and play with intensity from the get-go. If we come out like that against D-II teams, it will be a long way to get back up, so we just got to keep playing, come out hard and get ready for Friday and Saturday.”
The Griffons will play in the 20th annual Hillyard Tip-off Classic at the MWSU Field House on Friday against William Jewel College, and Saturday they will take on Rockhurst University. Both games start at 7:30 p.m.