After winning their last two games and five of seven, the Griffons will face a familiar foe in their opening round game of the MIAA tournament. Western will take on the Ichabods of Washburn University Tuesday night.
The Griffons welcomed Washburn to St. Joseph, Missouri Wednesday night, defeating their opponent 74-66.
Guard Cole Clearman led Missouri Western with 15 points in his 31 minutes on the floor.
“We knew we had to come out with a win,” Clearman said. “Mindset was to do whatever it takes to get that win.”
Neither team was able to take control of this game. In the first half Western was up by as many as nine, but also trailed by as many as six. Washburn went into halftime leading 34-30.
Clearman played just 11 minutes in the first half and contributed only three points, but the second half would turn into his half.
The Griffons took the lead with 17:50 left in the second half, but the two teams then went back and forth, trading leads for most of the second half. Western took control of the game in the middle of the half and looked to put away the Ichabods.
Washburn wouldn’t go down without a fight though. After being down by as many as eight, they recaptured the lead with 4:46 left in the game. That would be the last lead of the game though for the Ichabods.
Head Coach Brett Weiberg believes the key to the second half was making shots down the stretch.
“We got a lot better shots and made our free throws in the second half,” Weiberg said.
Guard Aaron Emmanuel was one of the Griffons to knock down his free throws toward the end of the game.
Emmanuel felt like the team played with a chip on their shoulder after their last loss to Washburn.
“I thought our guys played really hard,” Emmanuel said. “We knew we had to get them back at home.”
After Emmanuel’s free throws, six would be as close as Washburn would get before Western finished them off with their eight-point victory.
The Griffons continued their recent winning ways on Saturday night at the Fieldhouse, beating the University of Central Missouri 63-62.
The win clinched a spot in the tournament and was payback for the 15-point beating the Mules gave the Griffons in Warrensburg on Dec. 2.
Guard Miles Wentzien led Western in the first half with 13 of the team’s 40 points.
He continued his good play with a three-point shot to give the Griffons an eight-point lead to start the second half.
The Mules wouldn’t go away, tying the game at 43 at the 16-minute mark. Western struggled to hit shots and found themselves down seven halfway through the second half.
The game was then tied with five minutes left and the teams would trade leads until finally Emmanuel would give the Griffons the points they needed to win with his two free throws at the one-minute mark.
With that win, Western finished the season at 11-17 overall and 9-13 in conference play.
The Griffons hope to carry that momentum into the tournament when they take on Washburn Tuesday.
“Momentum is a real thing for sure,” Weiberg said.
There is no doubt that the team feels good about the position that they’re in.
Winning fixes everything and they know that the tournament is the start of a whole new season.
“It’s natural, winning just makes you feel better,” Weiberg said.
Western will try to continue their season Tuesday night in Topeka at 7 p.m.