Missouri Western Men’s Basketball won its regular season opener with a 75-44 blowout of Sterling College at MWSU Fieldhouse on Nov. 13.
The Griffons played lock-down defense, holding Sterling to 4-for-21 from 3-point distance and 36 percent from the field while creating 13 steals.
“Defensively there are still things we need to work on, but a lot of effort was given tonight,” guard Dylan Frantz said. “We can crash the boards better, but we are still working on it and we’ll get better.”
The Griffons out-rebounded the smaller Sterling team 45-to-29 with Dzenan Mrkaljevic grabbing 17 rebounds, one shy of the school record. Mrkaljevic showed his versatility by stepping out and hitting two 3-pointers.
“I think he did a great job today,” coach Tom Smith said. “We need him to rebound. They weren’t very big and size had a lot to do with it. The question is will he rebound like that way against bigger people.”
James Harris led all scorers with 13 points off the bench while forward Cedric Clinkscales added 12. Mrkaljevic and Frantz scored 10 points each while Reed Mells poured in nine off of three 3-point shots.
Smith hopes to rely on Harris and Mells to continue to give the Griffons instant offense off the bench.
“I really like the feeling that I can bring them off the bench and get a little firepower in there,” Smith said. “They are more offensive minded by far than our others guards.”
On defense it was Adarius Fulton and Freddie Manyawu disrupting the passing lanes and creating four steals each while Tevin Harris was credited with two. Manyawu is a sophomore that didn’t see much time last season, but could make an impact this year.
“He gives us length for the defense in the zone,” Smith said. “He really has a high basketball IQ.”
The Western bench outscored Sterling’s second unit 35-to-12 and the Griffons were up 34-to-19 at the halftime break. The large lead allowed Smith to play 12 players which is more than usual.
“You earn your time out here,” Smith said. “I think we can go nine or 10 deep and get some minutes out of people.”
Clinkscales was bigger and stronger than anybody Sterling had to go up against him in the post. He dominated the smaller NAIA big men today, but feels like that will continue into MIAA conference play.
“Being physical, I’m built for that,” Clinkscales said. “MIAA, I’m coming. We’re going to make some noise this year.”