Western men struggling

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The Missouri Western men find themselves trying to snap a six-game losing streak since defeating top-ranked Missouri Southern on Dec. 7. The Griffons sit at 6-9 on the season and 1-8 in conference play.

The Griffons were unable to find offense at the MWSU Fieldhouse over the break, dropping games against Lincoln and Truman State.

“Last year I would have said we are getting exactly what we deserve,” coach Tom Smith said after the loss against Truman State. “This team really isn’t. They work hard and they are good kids that do what I ask them to do. Unfortunately I think we are practicing better and harder than we are playing right now.”

Western fell to 2-10 Lincoln 66-63 on Jan. 7 in the Blue Tigers first ever victory at the MWSU Fieldhouse.

“It’s probably the most disappointing loss that I have had here in 24 years,” Smith said.

The Griffons held an 11 point lead at the halftime break, but saw the lead erased with a 15-5 run in the second half that gave Lincoln its first lead of the game at 51-50 with nine minutes to play.

The teams went back-and-forth for the rest of the game and T.J. Johnson forced a steal and tied the game at 58 with with 1:15 remaining.

James Harris drove into the lane and was called for a questionable call charge that set up the winning possession for Lincoln.

“He was inside the circle definitely, that’s why I pulled up,” Harris said. “It’s real frustrating. They played harder than us for the last ten minutes.”

Lincoln forward James Edmond nailed the game winning 3-point shot from the corner with 2 seconds remaining and then a final attempt from Johnson fell short.

“We got back on our heels and started reacting. When you start reacting, you are going to get beat,” Smith said.

Johnson scored a career-high 23 points and was the only player who scored in double figures against Lincoln.

“We didn’t execute at the end of the game,” Johnson said. “We had a chance to win, we were up 11, we just let up and threw the game away.”

The Griffons dropped another close with an 87-86 overtime loss against 5-11 Truman State on Jan. 14 at MWSU Fieldhouse.

“It’s tough as a team,” said Harris. “I know the coaching staff is frustrated and the players are frustrated. We just have to learn how to execute games at the end in the last five minutes and overtimes.”

Harris hit a 3-point shot that tied the game at the end of regulation after the Griffons overcame a seven-point Truman lead with six minutes to play.

Western got out to a four-point-lead to start overtime but Truman went on an 8-0 run to make it a 85-81 game with 20 seconds left.

Harris hit another basket from deep to cut the lead to one, but there wasn’t enough time remaining as Truman went to the line and missed the free throws and time expired.

Johnson led the Griffons in scoring with 22 and added 10 rebounds while Harris scored 21. Lavonte Douglas added 19 points and eight rebounds.

Western extended its losing streak to six games after being defeated by Central Missouri 64-48 on Jan. 14 in Warrensburg. The Griffons will try and get back to winning on Jan. 17 when it travels to Bolivar to play Southwest Baptist.

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