Griffons make MIAA Tournament

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.

Western takes first MIAA Tournament win in six years

For the first time since 2010 Western won its first postseason game with a commanding 70-54 win over the Washburn Ichabods on Tuesday. With the win the Griffons also became the first No. 11 seed to win an MIAA Tournament game. Head coach Brett Weiberg is happy that his team was able to experience this win. “It feels good, I’m very proud of the kids,” Weiberg said. “I really felt like we punched hard first and rode that momentum the rest of the way.” Western controlled the game from the start when guard Cole Clearman gave them their first lead 13 seconds into the game by sinking a three-pointer. From there the Griffons never looked back. They pushed their biggest lead of the first half to 14 points with a score of 20-6 and ended up going into halftime with an 11 point 28-17 lead. Washburn tried their hardest to cut into Western’s lead when they dropped the Griffons 11 point lead to a nine point 28-19 gap. The Griffons countered with an 11-0 run thanks to three shots from beyond the arch by Clearman and two converted free throws by forward Kevin Thomas to go up 39-19. A twenty-point lead would not be the largest for Western. They held dominating 21-point lead three times before putting the Ichabods away 70-54. The Griffon defense forced 17 Ichabod turnovers, turning those plays into 25 points. Clearman led all scorers with 20 points by making 6-11 from three point land and 7-13 field goals overall. In the last part of the season Clearman has gotten hot and Weiberg attributes his play to determination. “He’s really worked on his game since Christman break, trying to dig himself out of his slump and he’s done a fantastic job,” Weiberg said. “It’s what it takes when you not getting the job done like you want to, you have to go back and work and I really think it’s paying off for him. I’m proud of him.” Western still has a tough road ahead of them as they face the Missouri Southern Lions in the second round of the tournament. The Lions defeated the Griffons early in the season at the Fieldhouse 85-72 and again in Joplin 94-71 and they are currently the No. 3 seed in the tournament. Weiberg knows that, in order to be prepared for their next game, the team can not take any time off. “We’ll get back to work and start getting the kids minds on Missouri Southern and try to get better at what we’re doing,” Weiberg said. “It’s kinds of a two way street, get better at us and also get ourselves prepared for what Missouri Southern is going to try to do to us.” The MIAA Tournament Friday, March 4 continues as the Griffons face the Lions.

Griffons fall to rivals

Missouri Western head coach Brett Weiberg spoke last week about how his team must play two good halves in Maryville. Weiberg was right, and the Griffons hung with the No. 19 ranked Bearcats for the first 25 minutes. It was at the 14-minute mark of the second half that Northwest was able to pull away, winning easily 75-56. “It was a disappointing game for sure,” Weiberg said. The Griffons only lead of the game came in the first two minutes, by striking first in the game. After that, the Bearcats took control. The biggest lead in the first half came at the two-minute mark when Northwest went up 11. Miles Wentzien and Kevin Thomas led Western with six points each in the first half and helped to keep the game within reach. “They hit a couple of threes early,” Weiberg said. “But after that I thought we did okay defensively.” Missouri Western came storming back in the first five minutes of the second half, making it a one-point game with 14:17 left in the game. The Bearcats then fired off five straight three point shots, going up 56-42. The Griffons were never able to get back in the game after that. “They went on a run and put us in a hole we were never able to climb out of,” Weiberg said. Western has relied heavily on the three-point shot throughout the year, but they struggled from beyond-the-arc in Maryville. The team shot 14 percent on Saturday, lowering their season average to 34 percent. The Griffons were strong inside though, scoring 36 of their 56 points in the paint. Western held the Bearcats to only 22 points in the paint, but allowed 13 three pointers. “We competed for the most part,” Weiberg said. “We tried to stay in the game.” Aaron Emmanuel led the Griffons with 16 points. Wentzien scored 11 and Thomas added 10. Defensively they slowed down the Bearcats' leading scorer, Justin Pitts, holding him to just 14 points. It was Chris-Ebou Ndow that really hurt Western, scoring 26 points and hitting six three pointers. The Griffons have two games left in the regular season. They will host Washburn University Wednesday night at the MWSU Fieldhouse. The tip-off is at 7:30. Western last played Washburn on Jan. 13, losing 78-67 in Topeka. “We have to go back to work,” Weiberg said. “This is a team that can beat anyone in the league, but they can also lose to anyone.” The Griffons will finish up conference play Saturday when the University of Central Missouri comes to town. “We know how hard we have to play, but we have to play with some urgency,” Weiberg said.

Team effort needed against rivals

The difference is only 45 miles or, for those who love numbers, 79,200 yards. That is the distance between Missouri Western State University and Northwest Missouri State University. The Griffons will make that trip to take on their rivals this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The Griffons last played the first place Bearcats on Jan. 9, falling to Northwest 66-60. The Bearcats have clinched their own tournament birth and the MIAA championship. This won’t stop either team from giving it their all on Saturday. With rivalries comes bad blood, and no matter what the standings are, both teams will be all in believes head coach Brett Weiberg. “It’s just really good for the fan bases and really good for the schools,” Weiberg said. Western has been on a roll as of late, winning three of four and earning their first road victory of the season at Central Oklahoma. The Griffons have been inconsistent on the road and Weiberg and the team are still looking for a solution. “Maybe it’s just consistent that we have been poor on the road,” Weiberg said. “If I could tell you why or how then maybe we could fix it.” It has been a mixture of players leading the Griffons in their victories this season. In their victory against Lindenwood, it was Trey Sampson leading the way, and in their victory against Central Oklahoma, it was Cole Clearman. Weiberg knows that it takes a true team effort for the Griffons to be successful. “You know this team doesn’t have a true go-to guy,” Weiberg said. “So in order to win you need everybody contributing.” The man that Western must stop on Saturday is Northwest’s leading scorer, Justin Pitts. Pitts is fifth in the MIAA, averaging 21 points per game. He led the Bearcats with 29 points in their first win against Western. “Against Northwest, you have to contain Pitts to a certain degree,” Weiberg said. Western has a team of talented players and they feel they’re capable of beating anyone in the MIAA. “I don’t think there is a team in our conference that relies on each other like we do,” Weiberg said. The Griffons will finish off their regular season schedule next week with home games against Central Missouri and Washburn. The MIAA tournament will start on March 1.

Road wins needed for playoff hopes

The Griffon’s will take to the road this week, making a long trip to the red dirt of Oklahoma. Western will try to keep their winning ways going on Thursday. The team will travel to Tahlequah, Oklahoma to take on the 6-14 Northeastern State University. The team has managed to climb out of the MIAA cellar, with two straight wins. Missouri Western will have to do something that they have failed to do all season, win on the road. Coach Brett Weiberg believes the key is keeping the team focused. “We just have to talk about keep doing what we do,” Weiberg said. The Griffons took down the Northeastern State in their first matchup on Jan. 2 and were led by Trey Sampson. Sampson finished that game with 23 points, with an assist and going 10-10 from the free throw line. Miles Wentzien also had a strong game for the Griffons with a season high 16 points. Sampson was a key player in the team’s win on Saturday and hopes to build on that this week. “We expect to go down there and take care of business,” Sampson said. The Griffons will have to slow down guard Trey Mohair, who is leading the team with 13.3 points per game for the RiverHawks. The Griffons will travel to Edmond, Oklahoma on Saturday to take on the 12-10 University of Central Oklahoma. Central Oklahoma will be coming off of a win against Northeastern State. Tip-off is set for 7:30 and the Griffons will be hoping for the same kind of success they had against the Bronchos on Jan. 4th. The Griffons took down the Central Oklahoma 77-60 and won with a solid, team effort. Aaron Emmanuel scored 14 points, along with 13 from Currie Byrd, 13 from Miles Wentzien, and 12 from Wes Miter. The team knows that now is the time for them to find their mojo. With only five games left in the regular season, the Griffons must be at their best with the conference tournament right around the corner. Forward Mataika Koyamainavure knows the next week will say a lot about the team’s 2015-2016 season. “Our goal is to go undefeated, said Koyamainavure. “That would be really good for our morale.” Winning both road games are crucial if Western wants to hold onto any playoff hopes.