Western men’s basketball fell victim to hot three-point shooting by Nebraska-Kearney in the second half as they were defeated 75-70 at the MWSU Fieldhouse on Military Appreciation Day.
The Griffons fell to 9-15 on the season and 5-11 in MIAA conference play.
“Kearney played well and im not taking anything away from them, but in 25 years here this ranks as one of my toughest losses,” coach Tom Smith said. “I’m really taken back by this. We just gave a team life that didn’t think they had any life.”
Nebraska-Kearney hit 15 shots from 3-point distance including 9-for-16 in the second half. The Griffons went into the halftime break with a 32-27 lead, but two consecutive 3’s by guard Thomas Cooper near the beginning of the second half gave the Lopers a 44-41 lead and never gave the lead back to Western.
The Griffons have not had good results playing at home as their record at the MWSU Fieldhouse is just 1-6 in conference play. According the Smith, this is the first team in 25 years that doesn’t play well at home. In the past, even in bad years, the fieldhouse has provided a home-court advantage for the Griffons.
“This team cannot play at home,” Smith said. “They can’t take all the people and they cant take the hoopla. They couldn’t take it. This is pathetic when we come out and give this kind of effort in front of this kind of crowd. We are actually intimidated by our own fans.”
Cedric Clinkscales led the Griffons with 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting and added 10 rebounds. Clinkscales twisted his knee in the first half and was forced to sit out the last seven minutes before coming back to start the second half.
“We got players who can step up and do their job, but it may have hurt us,” Clinkscales said. “We have to defend their shooters. They got a lot of open 3’s in the second half and then we gave up a lot of rebounds too. We have to execute,make shots and get defensive stops.”
Dylan Frantz scored 13 points on 5-for-9 from the field and added three assists while Reed Mells scored 10 points and dished out six assists. Kalvin Balque scored seven points while providing the highlight of the night when he dunked home a lob pass from Mells. Alfreeman Flowers scored eight points and added five rebounds.
Western shot 51 percent from the field and 9-for-22 from 3-point distance. They struggled at the free-throw line, connecting on just three out of eight attempts.
There are only two games left in the regular season for the Griffons and Smith in his final season as head coach. The final is a home game next Saturday against Southwest Baptist University at 3:30 p.m.
The Griffons are currently in No. 11 out of the 12-team field for the MIAA Tournament in Kansas City, but could need a win in one of these last two games to guarantee their invite.