Griffons play physical defense, defeat Illinois-Springfield 61-50

[caption id="attachment_14189" align="alignnone" width="300"] Missouri Western guard James Harris drives the ball as the Griffons pull away from Illinios-Springfield. The Griffons defeated the Praire Stars with the final score of 61-50.
submited photo: Jason Brown[/caption] Missouri Western Men's Basketball avoided a late comeback attempt to defeat Illinois-Springfield 61-50 on Saturday, Dec. 1, at MWSU Fieldhouse. The Griffons improved to 4-2 on the season. “I think this was a good solid win, not a great win, but a good solid win going forward,” coach Tom Smith said. The Griffons were up 54-38 with eight minutes to play when Illinois-Springfield went on a run to cut the lead down to 55-50 over the next four minutes. Western responded with physical defense and points in the paint to finish the game. “That's just what you are going to go through in basketball,” junior Cedric Clinkscales said. “We just had to stay composed and keep going.” Western's zone defense forced Illinois-Springfield to shoot and miss from outside for most of the night. The Prairie Stars shot just 3-for-18 from 3-point distance and were held to 38 percent from the field. “We were closing out on them with every shot they took,” forward Alex Tuluka-Mfumupembe said. “The most important thing is that we keep the ball out of the middle because when it's in the middle then it's easy for them to find people on the wing.” A key to Western's success is winning the battle of turnovers. The Griffons turned the ball over eight times while the Prairie Stars committed 17 turnovers. “Anytime you keep your turnovers in single digits, that's good,” Smith said. “It's hard to do; it means we are taking care of the ball.” Smith was happy with the defensive effort, but concerned by the lack of execution on offense and feels that his team will need to score more than 61 points at home in the future. “I thought when they made the run we forgot about Cedric down low,” Smith said. “You could feel the momentum change a little bit.” Clinkscales paced the Griffons with 18 points on 9-for-15 shooting and pulled down six rebounds. Tuluka-Mfumupembe scored 12 points, including two from 3-point distance. Point guard Adarius Fulton added nine points, five rebounds, and three assists while forward Alfreeman Flowers dropped in eight points on 2-for-3 shooting. Western converted on 10-for-15 free throw attempts and shot 41.1 percent from the field. The Griffons defense accounted for seven blocks and four steals. The Griffons return to action on Dec. 5 against Truman State, which will be the start of MIAA conference play. “We've had our ups and downs, but I think we are ready for conference play,” Tuluka-Mfumupembe said. “Everyone is excited about that.”

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