Coach Tom Smith earned his 600th career win after Missouri Western went on a second half run to defeat Fontbonne University 69-55 at the MWSU Fieldhouse.
Smith is one of only 61 coaches in the history of college basketball to record 600 wins. There are only 20 other active coaches who have recorded as many wins.
“It means more than any other milestone because it puts you in a unique group,” Smith said, “a unique group of people that can survive long enough to get that many wins. To have 600 wins is an accomplishment and a milestone that I think is pretty nice.”
The Griffons started off slow, and Fontbonne had a 34-29 lead at half-time.
“You could see almost from the beginning that they were nervous,” Smith said. “I think they were just so jacked to do this.”
The lone bright spot in the first half for Western was the play of guard Dylan Frantz, who shot 5-of-6 in the first half, including 3-of-3 from behind the three point line. The rest of the team combined to shoot 6-26 from the field in the first half.
“We just wanted to get the win so bad, and it kind of hurt us in the beginning,” Frantz said. “My shots were falling, so I just needed to do whatever I could to help the team stay in this game.”
The Griffons battled back and took a 41-40 lead on a Levonte Douglas layup and never looked back. Douglas sparked the momentum for the Griffons when he blocked a shot out of bounds the possession before.
“The team was slacking, so me being a senior and a leader, I had to set the tone,” Douglas said “My adrenaline is still rushing right now.”
Douglas finished with a double-double — 13 points and 10 rebounds — he scored 11 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in the second half.
“I thought he got us going and gave us something inside,” Smith said. “He really played hard.”
The Griffons outscored Fontbonne 41-20 while shooting 50percent from the field in the second half.
James Harris didn’t have one of his better shooting days, but still led the Griffons in scoring with 17 points Harris shot 5-for-14 from the field and made 7-for-10 from the free throw line. He came away with four steals on defense.
Frantz finished with 15 points and T.J. Johnson added eight points, including a big dunk at the very end that set the MWSU Fieldhouse into the celebration for coach Smith.
Many of Smith’s ex-players were in attendance and came out onto the floor to congratulate him when the game was over.
“I was just shocked. I didn’t realize they were here,” Smith said. “They just kept coming and coming. Each guy reminded me of another game. It was wonderful.”
Even though Smith nearly got the win last year against Fort Hays in the MIAA tournament, he is happy that he reached the milestone with this group of players.
“The group last year didn’t deserve to celebrate this like the group this year did,” Smith said. “I know we didn’t play great tonight, but the effort they have given me up until now has been good.”
Frantz, who transferred from Hutchinson Community College, described helping Smith reach the milestone in his first game at Western as an amazing experience.
“I’ve never been a part of something like this,” Frantz said. “It’s really awesome, and I’m just proud we could do it for coach Smith. I’m honored.”