Fresh off of a 30-point performance in a losing effort to Nebraska-Omaha, Jessica Koch needed help in order for Missouri Western to win in the MIAA. Brittany Griswold was her help Wednesday night.
Griswold led the Griffons in scoring with 17 points and Koch was second with 12 as they secured their first MIAA win this season in their 62-51 victory against rival Northwest Missouri State at the MWSU Fieldhouse.
Koch, who up until Wednesday night had played three-straight 40-minute games, has been the only Western threat on the offensive side of the ball. Needing help, Griswold — a junior transfer — stepped in for the Griffons.
“We saw their heads falling and we took advantage of it,” Griswold said. “We took that high and that adrenaline rush that we had, and we just started pushing it up the court.”
Griffons coach Lynn Plett referred to himself as a “crazy coach” because he doesn’t limit his players from shooting the ball. Griswold was a prime example of that. The junior shot the ball 18 times, including nine 3s. Even when she went 1-for-7 from the 3-point line in the first half, Griswold kept shooting. She made both her 3s in the second half, one which was in the midst of a 19-3 run to start the half.
“Cory [O’Dell] and I talked about it before the game,” Plett said. “One of these teams is going to go out feeling a whole lot better and the other is going to have to wait for another day. Fortunately that wasn’t us.”
Western (3-8, 1-5) only trailed the game when Northwest led 2-0. Koch and Alicia Bell quickly turned the advantage in the Griffons favor when the duo went on an 11-2 run, all points scored by the team’s leaders.
Western came out in the second half leading 34-26, but the intense play favored the Griffons as they halted the Bearcats, who only scored one field goal in the first 13 minutes of the second half. Western jumped out to its biggest lead, 53-29 before Northwest could start much on offense.
“When you’re going up against your rival, the records really don’t matter,” said Koch, who had a game-high 12 rebounds. “It was a clean slate, 2012, and we’re ready to be a new team.”
The rivalry between the two teams continued on the court just as it had in years past. With both teams desperately in need of an MIAA win, the physical matchup was shown throughout the night. Plett said it wasn’t a must-win game, but they wanted it. Northwest coach Gene Steinmeyer, whose team made it to the Elite 8 last year in the NCAA Division II National Championship, told the Saint Joseph News-Press that Plett did a good job of preparing his team.
“I didn’t have the team ready to go,” Steinmeyer said. “Lynn did. I didn’t, bottom line. Put the credit where it belongs; put the blame where it belongs.”
Freshman Stacey Mgbike stepped off the bench and made her biggest contribution to the team so far this season. Mgbike tallied nine rebounds in 16 minutes, the most action she has seen all year. Plett said he went with Mgbike more because he wanted to counter some of the Bearcats strength.
“Stacey, I thought, did a good job,” said Plett, who also mentioned Alex Saxen and CC Bozeman as players off the bench who stepped up. “It’s always nice to get some support help.”
Saxen, who scored 14 points in the loss to Nebraska-Omaha, went 2-for-6 from the field with nine points. Bell scored 10 points and led her team in assists with 5.