Missouri Western played tough on defense, but couldn’t find enough points to stop Washburn from walking away from MWSU Fieldhouse with a 64-55 victory.
With 1:36 left on the clock and down 56-55, Western forced guard Will McNeill to shoot a long-distance 3-pointer with the shot clock expiring. McNeill buried the shot and closed the door on the Griffon’s chances for a win.
“When he hit the 3 was the biggest play of the game,” coach Tom Smith said. “We did a great job, we were sound defensively, forced him into taking the bad shot and he hits it. Good players make good plays, and that’s basically what we ran into.”
McNeill scored a game-high 26 points and hit 13-for-16 from the free-throw line. For the Griffons, it was freshman Reed Mells who led the way with a career-high 17 points and hit five 3-pointers. Mells was in the starting line-up for the second straight game with senior guard Deionta Mitchell sidelined with an injury.
“Deionta is a big part of our team, and he’s the heart and sole of the back-court,” Mells said. “When he went down, somebody had to step up and coach Smith called my number, so I didn’t want to disappoint him, my teammates or the Missouri Western family.”
Senior big man Lavonte Douglas scored 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting, pulled down nine rebounds and blocked a shot.
The Griffons two leading scorers on the season are T.J Johnson and James Harris, but Washburn was able to contain both players. Johnson scored nine points on 3-for-5 shooting before fouling out with five minutes to play, while Harris struggled to find his jump shot against the zone defense, going 1-for-10 from the field for four points. The Griffons were unable to hit the shots in the second half, going 8-for-24, and connected on just 6-for-22 from 3-point distance for the game.
“If our guys were on, it wouldn’t have been a close game,” Douglas said. “They made up and played solid defense for them being off on offense, so I appreciate the effort with everyone staying together.”
The Griffons gave up 18 offensive rebounds to their 11, and were called for 29 fouls compared to Washburn’s 15. The Western fans didn’t like the officiating and a chant of ‘awful’ broke out late in the game.
Western has fallen to 7-12 overall and 2-11 in MIAA conference play after losing nine of it’s last ten games. Smith said that you can be miserable during a losing season, but he’s not because of the collective attitude of the team.
“I’ve had successful teams over my years that I haven’t liked more than this group,” Smtih said. “I feel bad because as a coach I cannot complain ever about what they have given to me every day.”