No. 12-seed Western men’s basketball was blown out in the first round of the MIAA post-season tournament 66-46 by No. 5-seed rival Northwest Missouri State University.
The loss ended the season for the Griffons, who finished with a record of 10-17. It also sent coach Tom Smith into retirement after 25 years at Western and 38 years total coaching basketball.
The Bearcats came out hot right from the opening tip, getting out to a 8-0 lead. The Griffons tried to fight back, but everything was falling for Northwest as it extended the lead out to 25-6.
“It’s incredibly hard to come back,” Jordan Yurth said. “You really have to come together as a team — even when you do that — it’s still hard to come back. We really weren’t hitting shots like we were supposed.”
The Griffons went into the halftime break down 35-14. Northwest guard Alex Sullivan outscored the Griffons by himself in the first half 18-14.
Western was forced to abandoned their zone defense in the second half, but it was Northwest who came out hot once again to start the second half. The Bearcats pushed the lead out to an insurmountable 41-14.
Western never gave up and continued to battle, going on a 9-0 run to make the score 40-23. However, that was the closest the Griffons got to the Bearcats in this one-sided affair.
“It was tough to come back from how they were shooting in the first half,” Dylan Frantz said. “It felt like they had all the confidence and momentum in the world every time they shot it. They were on our throats from the beginning and it was tough.”
The Griffons shot just 4-for-20 from 3-point distance while the Bearcats hit a scorching 15-for-29. Western turned the ball over 13 times to Northwest’s six.
Cedric Clinkscales and Reed Mells were the only players to score in double-figures for the Griffons with 10 points each. Dzenan Mrkaljevic added six points and four rebounds, but couldn’t connect on either of his attempts from distance.
The Bearcats were led by Sullivan who scored 27 points on 8-for-16 from 3-point distance and DeAngelo Hailey who went for 21 points and six rebounds including 5-for-7 from distance. Northwest shot 44 percent for the game and 51.7 percent from 3-point range.
An obnoxious Northwest crowd of over two thousand people played a factor in helping the Bearcats sustain momentum and worked to disrupt the Griffons.
“Just when they are making shots, they feel the momentum,” Frantz said. “If we would have made some shots, it would have quieted them down, but it didn’t happen tonight.”