[caption id="attachment_26629" align="alignnone" width="220"] Senior Kevin Thomas goes up for a shot against the Lindenwood defender during Thursday's game. Thomas scored nine points and pulled down three boards in the game.[/caption] Missouri Western gained more than just a win on Saturday night at the Fieldhouse. The team was finally able to climb out of the MIAA cellar. The Griffons took down Lincoln 76-68 and improved to 8-15 on the season. The Griffons scored first in the game, but Lincoln then went on a 16-2 run. Coach Brett Weiberg used a timeout to let his team regroup. “I’m more disappointed in how we played in that first five minutes of the game, than in any other part of the game,” said Weiberg. After the timeout, the Griffons went to their bench. This is when the game turned for Missouri Western. Currie Byrd came off the bench and scored five points on the Griffons next two possessions and led them on a 10-5 run. “I was proud the kids were able to dig us out of that hole,” said Weiberg. It wasn’t until the eight-minute mark of the half that the Griffons were able to tie the game on a Wes Mitter three-point shot. After going up 28-25 on their next possession, Trey Sampson then made one of his five first half three-pointers. “I guess you could say I was feeling it,” Sampson said. Sampson wasn’t the only one; the Griffons made nine of their 15 three-point attempts and took an eight-point lead into halftime. The bench players scored 18 of the teams 41 first half points. “Our bench is phenomenal, they’re always getting up for the team,” said Sampson. The Griffons dominated the second half, leading by double digits for most of the second half. Western led by 21 points with 8:25 left in the half, and seemed to have put the game away. Lincoln had other plans though, slowly climbing back into the game. They used their interior offense and Griffon fouls to make it a five-point game with 32 seconds left. “We didn’t shoot very effectively in the last five minutes of the game, said Weiberg. “But, we used a lot of clock.” Sampson sunk 3-4 free throws, finishing off Lincoln and giving Missouri Western their 8th home victory. Sampson led the team with 22 points and played all but four minutes of the game. Byrd was second on the team with 14 points in only 19 minutes of action. The Griffons travel to Oklahoma this week to take on Northeastern State University Thursday and the University of Central Oklahoma on Saturday.
Former walk-on basketball player Joshua Ross was dismissed from the team last week. Ross played in 10 games for the Griffons, reaching double-digit minutes only twice. He scored a total of 26 points for 2.6 points per game. Head coach Brett Weiberg cites disciplinary issues as reasoning for the dismissal. “On more than one occasion he has either violated team policy or has not been able to do what I’m asking him to do,” Weiberg said. This removal happened in the middle of a season, when the Griffons are last in the MIAA and just 6-15 overall. Ross did not respond to emails or phone call from the Griffon News for comment.
Last week the Griffons suffered two over twenty-point losses to Pitt State and Missouri Southern on the road but return home, where they have a 6-5 record, to face the Lindenwood Lions on Thursday and the Lincoln Blue Tigers on Saturday. Head coach Brett Weiberg knows that during a season such as this the team has to keep pushing on. “When a team has been through the adversity that we’ve been through this year, you have to really continue to dig deep and continue to believe in what you can do as an individual to help the team win,” Weiberg said. The Lions hold the No. 2 spot in the conference thanks to their star senior Cory Arentsen. Arentsen averages 22 points per game on 49 percent shooting and has reached the 36 and 40 point marks once this season. Although he has reached a high of 40 points he has also been held to lows of seven points and one point this season, but Weiberg believes that containing their other players will be a major factor in the game. “Arentsen is going to have the ability to het his,” Weiberg said. “I believe the key is to hold their other players from exceeding what they do on a day in and day out basis.” The Griffons will counter offensively with a combination of guards Trey Sampson and Aaron Emmanuel who are first and second on the team in points per game with 12.6 and 11.3 respectively. Saturday, Western is pitted against Lincoln who has also struggled on the road, with just a 2-7 away record. The Blue Tigers run the majority of their offense through their guards Anthony Virdure and Jaylon Smith who average 21.8 and 18.5 points per game respectively. The players dominate in field goal attempts as well. Virdure’s 346 and Smith’s 310 heavily out number the Griffon leaders Sampson with 199 and Emmanuel with 175. The game plan against Lincoln is very similar to the plan for Lindenwood according to Weiberg. “It’s another one of those situations where they’re going to get some of theirs but we have to stay tough and be able to guard one on one,” Weiberg said. Western has an opportunity to climb out of the last spot in the MIAA with their upcoming home games. Currently, the Griffons are 4-11 in the conference right behind Southwest Baptist at 4-10 and Northeastern State at 5-10. They will face Lindenwood Thursday, Feb 4 at 7:30 p.m. and Lincoln on Saturday, Feb. 6 at 5 p.m.
Western began the new year with a 2-0 record but then lost three straight to enter the spring semester with a 5-12 overall record. The Griffons fell most recently on the road to Washburn and Emporia State last week. Against the Ichabods, the Griffons found themselves down 7-0 early in the first half. Western continued to fight but could not erase the deficit while Washburn would increase their lead to 14 with a score of 28-14. The lead would be cut to single digits off of a jumper from forward Currie Byrd, putting the Griffons down by just eight with a score of 35-27. The Ichabods would make one last shot to push their lead back to ten before the first half was over, going into halftime up 37-27. In the second half Western could not stop Washburns offense as they increased their lead to 19 points halfway through the half with a score of 60-41. The Griffons went on a 9-0 run to drop the Ichabods’ lead to 10, with a 60-50 score but they would not gain any more ground as they were defeated 78-67. Western was lead in scoring by Byrd with 14 points and guard Joshua Ross with 11. They shot just 35.9 percent from the field as a team while Washburn shot 51.9 percent. Head coach Brett Weiberg was not pleased with the way his team performed. “That was a bad night for us in terms of we just didn’t play well. We didn’t shoot it well and we were pretty bad at transition defense,” Weiberg said. “Those are two things that I think that we can control and we just didn’t. I’m just really disappointed with how we played at Washburn.” Western traveled to Emporia State next and looked to be on track for their first road win until the final moments of the game. The Griffons took a 6-0 lead in the first half but the Hornets quickly tied it up and then took a two point 8-6 lead. From there on the game would be a back and fourth battle between both teams. After multiple lead changes Western went into halftime down by nine with a score of 35-26. In the second half the Hornets moved their lead to 11 points but the Griffon went on a 9-0 run to pull within two points of their opponent, with the score at 35-37. Emporia State held onto the lead for little while longer but halfway through the second half Western would retake the lead and push it up to four points with a 51-47 score. It continued to be neck and neck until the final seconds when the Griffons were up 66-65 with 49 seconds left to play. After missed shots from guard Cole Clearman and forward Mataika Koyamainavure, the Hornets Terrence Moore put in a layup with 10 seconds left to put the Griffons back down 67-66. With just two seconds to go guard Aaron Emmanuel missed a layup and Western would lose a heartbreaker, 67-66. Emmanuel led the Griffons in scoring with 14 points. He also recorded a triple-double, adding on 13 rebounds and 11 assists. Byrd was second in scoring with 13 points while guard Trey Sampson scored 12. Weiberg believed that they would pull this game out for a win and that they played well enough to do so. "I thought the kids played hard and we played good enough to win the game, we just didn’t get it done,” Weiberg said. “The only choice that you have is to move on and get ready for Thursday.” Western will be back in the Fieldhouse on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 7:30 p.m. against Fort Hays.
[caption id="attachment_26263" align="alignnone" width="300"] Mili Koyamainavure[/caption] Moving to a different country, a different environment, leaving your family and playing a sport that you love are all a part of many international student-athletes' life. Coaches recruit all over the world to find the best talent. A lot of international students at Missouri Western can relate to the challenges that come with moving to a different country. Miliakere Koyamainavure, who goes by “Mili”, is a member of the Missouri Western women’s basketball team and is from Suva, Fiji. Three years ago, she made the decision to move to the United States to play basketball. She started her basketball career at a community college in Iowa at Iowa Central. Koyamainavure says that it was hard adjusting to the United States when she first came here. “It was hard at first, considering the time difference. It took me over three weeks to adjust to the time difference,” Koyamainavure said. “People moved fast, think fast and worked fast. The pace was fast and I had to try and keep up with it.” When asked what was her favorite part about living in the United States, she said the environment. “I really like the environment. Now that I’m here, I love it more than I thought I would,” Koyamainavure said. “The people are nice, the environment is different with the seasons, which I really enjoy because we don’t have that in Fiji. Lastly, basketball, I enjoy being around my teammates and playing competitive basketball.” Another member of the Griffon women’s basketball team, Julia Torres-Alves, is from Sao Paulo, Brazil. She first came to the United States to play basketball at Highland Community College. Torres-Alves says that she didn’t know what to expect when she first came to the United States. “When I first came to the United States, I was very afraid,” Torres-Alves said. “But, I knew it was for a good cause.” When asked about some challenges she faced while adjusting to the United States, she said communication was a big one. “My biggest challenge was the fact that I couldn't communicate and expressed myself like I was able to when I was home,” Torres-Alves said. “New culture, new people, new language, everything was pretty new for me.” Going to a different country and trying to figure out a language that you have never spoken can also be challenging. This was another task that Torres-Alves faced. “I didn’t know any English when I first got here, so I was very confused.” Torres-Alves said. “I'm still learning English today, every day I learn something new.” Some may ask, how do these international student athletes get to the United States? How does the recruiting process work? Assistant basketball coach for Missouri Western Aaron Coombs can help answer these questions. Coombs is familiar with the recruiting process and moving into a different country. He played professional basketball in France and Romania. When asked how he got some of his players that were from a different country throughout his coaching career, he said technology played a big role. “I basically get all international information from referrals,” Coombs said. “We get 10-15 emails a day about different international kids. All of them have links to film and player information.” Not only has technology played a role, but Coombs says that social media is big in getting these international athletes. “Over the years, Facebook and Twitter have been huge in the ability to keep in contact with international scouts and international kids.” After playing professional basketball in another country himself, Coombs can also relate to the athletes and adjusting to another culture. “Adjusting to another culture was difficult. I had to get used to two-hour lunch breaks during the day, where every store except restaurants closed at 7 pm,” Coombs said. “Learning how to grocery shop for myself was interesting also, I didn’t know where anything was.” Moving to a different country comes with a lot of challenges. These international student athletes leave their family and move to a different country without knowing the languages, culture and other difficult tasks.