Western men (8-12, 4-8) started hot, but it didn’t last as Northeastern State University (15-5, 8-4) got warmed up and handed the Griffons their second consecutive loss at the MWSU Fieldhouse 73-61.
Alex Tuluka-Pfumupembe got things going early with back-to-back 3-pointers which gave the Griffons a 6-0 lead. Reed Mells added a 3 and a Cedric Clinkscales layup put the Griffons up 11-3 early.
“You could tell the energy level wasn’t good for us after the first eight minutes,” coach Tom Smith said. “The thing that bothers me the most is it’s the first time I can say that we didn’t give much effort.”
It was all Northeastern State for the rest of the game. More specifically, it was all point guard Bryton Hobbs. Hobbs penetrated the Western zone defense when he had a man in his face and made open shots when the defense backed off. He finished with 32 points on 10-for-17 from the field and added nine rebounds and three assists.
“Hobbs did everything,” Smith said. “All around he was just the best player on the floor and one of the smallest. We knew he was good coming in.”
Western shot just 41 percent from the field and wasn’t getting the type of shots in the offense that they wanted. When they got good looks, they couldn’t put enough of them down to keep the game close.
“We are just settling for shots that we can always get,” Dylan Frantz said. “We just got to get it figured out, we have to dig in as a team and be smart get the best shots that we can.”
“I just feel like we all just need to have confidence in ourselves and play together more,” Frantz said. “We have to want it; we have to come with more focus and intensity and maybe our shots will start falling.”
Part of the reason for the loss is that the Griffons were beat on the glass 39-24.
Cedric Clinkscales led the Griffons in scoring with 13 points while Dzenan Mrkaljevic added 12. Frantz added seven points and five assists.
The Griffons will now try and refocus to avoid missing the MIAA post-season tournament where 12 out of the 15 teams in the conference get in. Western is currently sitting at No. 12.
“It’s all about practice,” Tuluka-Mfumupembe said. “We need to go harder and come with a lot of energy. We are playing like we are on the top of the league and we aren’t and I don’t understand that. Every game we need to come harder and be some dogs out here.”
The Griffons will get a boost in leadership and defense with the return of point guard Adarius Fulton who has missed the last two games with concussion-like symptoms. Western return to action Wednesday, Feb. 6 at Washburn in Topeka, Kan.