Griffon men fall at Central, bounce back at Lincoln

Western men’s basketball got a much-needed road win at Lincoln University as Dzenan Mrkaljevic hit a buzzer-beating 3-point shot to give Western the 61-59 win. The Griffons improved to 8-10 overall and 4-6 in MIAA conference play. “It was a play coming out of the timeout. They set up a pick and roll for me,” Mrkaljevic said. “Coach told me not to pass the ball and take that shot. He was feeling confident in me and I appreciate that when my coach and teammates feel confidence in me to take a shot like that.” Mrkaljevic also scored a career-high 17 points that included hitting 3-for-5 from 3-point distance. The game-winning shot was his first experience in that type of situation and has given him a boost in confidence going forward. Coach Tom Smith felt the game against Lincoln was a must-win for keeping the Griffons MIAA tournament hopes alive. “Had we not won at Lincoln it would have been a really uphill battle to get in the tournament at all,” Smith said. “It still is because of our remaining eight games, six of them are against dynamite teams.” Lincoln’s record sits at 3-17 and 2-8 in MIAA, but Smith knew that could be deceiving. He saw how they beat Northwest Missouri State in Maryville and knew that they couldn’t accomplish that with no talent. Point guard Adarius Fulton, who scored 17 points, didn’t expect Lincoln to be as tough as they were, but is glad to move forward with a win nonetheless. “I think it was a good win, a hard fought win,” Fulton said. “Lincoln had some great shooters and they were a better team than we probably thought, but I think it was a good win for our team.” Earlier in the week, the Griffons fell to Central Missouri University in Warrensburg 72-60. Coach Smith was honored before the game as he started off his hall of fame coaching career with the Mules. “I didn’t feel like we played all that poorly in a tough environment,” Smith said. “I thought we were a little intimidated in the beginning with the crowd and all the festivities around me.” Cedric Clinkscales paced the Griffons with 21 points and six rebounds while Fulton added 17. The Griffons were beat on the boards 37-33 and failed to execute when the opportunity to cut into the lead presented itself. “We missed three huge shots that would have cut the deficit down to six,” Smith said. “We had three wide open 3’s to cut it from nine to six and two times it went from nine to 12.” Central Missouri is one of the top teams in the conference with a record of 13-3 overall and 7-1 in conference play. “I thought we played okay at Central,” Smith said. “We were never really in the game and we were never really out of it.”

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