Missouri Western men’s basketball was defeated 59-57 in the final moments of an offensive struggle against MIAA opponent Emporia State University at the MWSU field house. The Griffons fell to 5-3 on the season and 0-2 in conference play.
“You need to protect your home court,” coach Tom Smith said. “I think that’s the thing that hurts us the most about this game,”
With 22 seconds remaining, the Hornets took a 58-57 lead on a 3 pointer by Chris Sights that put them ahead for the first time since two minutes into the second half.
“Every game that we are going to be in is going to be close and tough,” Dylan Frantz said. “We have 18 games to go and we can only get better.”
Lavonte Douglas missed on a layup attempt in the final seconds of the game after coach Tom Smith took a timeout to draw up a final play and the Griffons were forced to foul.
The Hornets made 1-of-2 from the stripe to push the lead to two with two seconds left. The Griffons were forced to throw a full court pass that was tipped out of bounds off of Emporia leaving only .7 seconds left on the clock. Frantz in-bounded the ball to James Harris, who was forced to throw up prayer from three point land that bounced off the rim.
“We couldn’t have got a better possession,” Smith said. “We just didn’t convert and that’s the difference between winners and losers. This is a tough loss for us.”
Despite shooting only 9-for-28 from the field and 5-13 from three point range in the first half, the Griffons only found themselves down by a point at the break. The shooting for Western improved in the second half as they shot 11-for-25 and 3-for-4 from 3 point distance.
“This team is struggling offensively,” Smith said. “I think our defense held us in there.”
Harris was the Griffons leading scorer with 17 points on 6-for-15 shooting and 3-for-6 from down town and had three assists.
Justin Reid had a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds and also showed his defensive presence by blocked four shots.
Douglas went for 11 points and also grabbed six rebounds and had three assists.
Freshman Reed Mells contributed off the bench with three 3’s for nine points in 17 minutes of playing time.
The Hornets held an edge in the paint, outscoring the Griffons 30-14 down low.
“We have to get tougher about things,” Smith said. “We are missing too many shots inside. There were three times where we had point blank shots and came out with nothing and that hurts you when that happens.”
Western shot 9-17 at the free throw line including three misses in the last two minutes of the game.
“We just got to finish,” Harris said. “We have to make free throws. Free throws win games and that’s what it is.”
The Griffons were without senior T.J. Johnson who was out with a high ankle sprain. Johnson is averaging 13.4 points per game on the season.
“He’s a real big key,” Harris said. “We are missing him on floor but we can’t look for an excuse.”