The Missouri Western men’s basketball team battled back but couldn’t find enough offense to overcome a slow start and fell to Northwest Missouri State 64-53 at the MWSU Fieldhouse.
“I thought defensively we weren’t too bad,” coach Tom Smith said. “You give up 64 points at home and you have a chance to win most games. Northwest did a good job and they are good defensively, but we didn’t shoot it very well.”
James Harris hit a jumper to put the Griffons up 2-0 but the next five minutes was all Bearcats as DeShaun Cooper and Kyle Haake couldn’t miss from deep and put Northwest up 14-2.
“We have to play better defense to start the game off,” guard Reed Mells said. “We just have to hold teams until we can pick it up on the offensive end.”
Mells and Alex Tuluka-Mfumupembe came off the bench and each hit a 3-pointer to get some offense going for the Griffons. Western cut into the lead with buckets from big men Lavonte Douglas and Justin Reid before Mells hit another 3-pointer on an assist from T.J. Johnson that cut the Bearcats lead to 23-22. Haake answered with a 3-pointer to give Northwest a 26-22 lead at the half.
Western fell down 32-41 in the second half before consecutive shots from 3-point range by Tuluka-Mfumupembe, Harris, and Johnson cut the Bearcats lead to 41-45. The two teams traded baskets and the score was 50-45 with seven minutes remaining.
Cooper hit five straight points off of consecutive Griffon misses and hit four free-throws in the final minutes to seal the game for Northwest.
“They are much more experienced than we are,” Smith said. “They have five or six kids that have been through the league three years now, and I think that showed tonight.”
The Griffons were unable to stop the scoring of Haake and Cooper who led the Bearcats with 21 and 22 points. The two shot a combined 12-for-19 from the field and 5-for-8 from 3-point distance.
Tuluka-Mfumupembe led the Griffons in scoring with 12 points, going 4-for-5 from beyond the 3-point line. Mells added 10 points including 2-for-3 from 3point range.
The Griffons shot 18-for-53 from the field and were beat on the boards, getting out-rebounded 35-23. The starting five shot a combined 10-for-38 including the three leading scorers Harris, Johnson and Douglas shot a combined 5-for-25 from the field.
“Our key kids have got to step up and play,” Smith said. “We’re not going to be able to survive when they don’t give us more offensive production.”