This past week the Missouri Western men’s basketball team went up against both the competitive Fort Hays State and University of Nebraska Kearney on the road. They ended up splitting these games 1-1, with a tough 74-84 loss to Fort Hays, but bouncing back a few days later with a great 83-79 win against University of Nebraska Kearney.
Thursday’s loss against Fort Hays happened in the first half as the Griffons came out to a very slow start, getting out scored 43-30 and only shooting 9-31 in the first half as a team. Coach Sundance Wicks knew the first half his team got beat physically and mentally.
“I thought the biggest thing was the first half,” Wicks said. “We let their physicality get the best of us, and they went on a 26-2 run after that first media timeout with the score only being 8-5. And then, with us getting in foul trouble and not being able to run the guys we want and allow the team to go on a run like that. You kind of just dig yourself a hole.”
The Griffons came out a little more aggressive in the second half boosting their shooting percentage to 55 percent shooting 15-27 from the field. They were able to fight their way back into the game, closing the deficit to only three with a little under two minutes left. Senior Lavon Hightower was a huge factor in that second half comeback scoring 29 points on 9-14 shooting. Freshman Tyrell Carroll added his fair share of help with 20 points also.
“We just let ourselves get down too early, and then had a great fight that came a little too late,” Carroll said.
With this loss to Fort Hays State, the Griffons conference record dropped to 2-5 in the MIAA and extended their losing streak to four games.
The Griffons put their Fort Hays loss behind them and moved on to Nebraska Kearney Saturday with a tough 83-79 win. Missouri Western outscored Kearney 39-35 in the first half while only shooting 33 percent in the first half. The second half was a dog fight between the two teams, both scoring 44 points and shooting above 50 percent.
“It was both offense and defense for us that helped us win this game,” Wicks said. “We were able to get multiple stops in the second half, and when you’re able to get stops, you’re able to get out in transition and get buckets, and we were really effective there.”
Lavon Hightower had another amazing night scoring 27 points on just 8-11 shooting. while point guard Tyrell Carroll also had another good scoring night adding 17 points to the win. Hightower has been averaging 20 points per game through these last nine games, making him the go-to guy for the Griffons.
Coach Wicks knows the importance of road wins especially in the MIAA conference. With the new rule that now only 10 teams are allowed to advance to the playoffs, coach knows every MIAA game is just as important as a playoff game.
“We have a motto here,” Wicks said. “Every game is a playoff game especially with the new 10 team format. There’s possibilities that some teams can be out of the tournament by February if games don’t get won, and we don’t want to be that team.”
The Griffons next game is Thursday, Jan. 31 against Missouri Southern at the Fieldhouse. The Griffons are coming off a big road win and plan to keep that momentum going into this week’s games.