Griffons face Lions in home rematch

Hot shooting from Lindenwood was too much for the Griffons to handle over the weekend. The Griffon men’s 32.2 percent shooting against Lindenwood last Saturday was just not enough to keep the Lions from slipping away. Lindenwood shot 50 percent from the field to hold the Griffons to a 66-57 loss last week. Trez Colbert and Cole Clearman scored 19 and 18 points respectively, but could not stop the Lions offensively. The Griffons will have a better chance of beating the Lions Saturday as they meet for the second time. Western will prepare for this game and get better judgments on what to do differently in order to beat the Lions. Watching film and making adjustments will put the Griffons at a higher chance of beating Lindenwood. Dareon Jones talks about key points they’re going to have to change in order to win. “We’re going to have to fight through screens and communicate better on defense, so they will not hurt us on pick-and-pops and pin-downs like they did," Jones said. Jones said when they look at film they look for the things that hurt them, and in practice they find ways to get better at whatever problems they have. Jones also tapped in a career high 20 points against Lincoln. Brett Weiberg, head coach of the team, said they played a little bit cleaner against Lindenwood than at Lincoln. He said they didn’t turn the ball over as much. If the Griffons can carry that over into the game Saturday, they will put themselves in a position to win. “We’re much better when we stay out of foul trouble and when we can get into the paint and to the rim but, obviously, that’s what teams are trying to keep us from doing.” Weiberg said. Lindenwood was successful at making Western shoot more jump shots than they probably intended to, forcing them to take more outside shots. However, Weiberg knows how important it is for his team to get to the rim. That’s when they’re successful. Lindenwood is one of the top teams in the conference. Weiberg talks about defense and how important it is to be able to compete with more of the top teams. “We didn’t defend very well, but our biggest thing is continue to get better. If we can keep some key guys out of foul trouble, so that if I choose to play them I can, as oppose to not really having a choice,” Weiberg said. “At one point they ran one play three times and got three three-pointers from it.” Although Weiberg recognizes how good of a team Lindenwood is, he believes there is definitely a chance of the Griffons coming out on top. “The more we can score in transition against them, the better,” he said. The Griffons will try to improve their record Saturday as they take on the Lions at home.

Defense critical against Lincoln

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As the 8-9 Griffon men regroup after a tough loss against Missouri Southern, they are looking ahead to even out their record against the Lincoln Tigers Saturday. The Griffon men tend not to focus on what’s already done, and are beginning to prepare for a road game in Jefferson City. “We just have to come together as a team and more than anything we have to regroup, get back together on Monday and watch some film,” Currie Byrd. Byrd scored 10 points in the losing match against Southern. “We didn’t do anything wrong this game, we just have to play harder against Lincoln.” The 4-14 Lincoln Tigers are led by the 6’1 senior guard, Joshua Buie, averaging 16.6 points per game. The Griffon men will focus on and understand that defense is going to be the key role to beating them. “Without defense on the road, the other team feeds off their crowd and they’ll just pull it in,” Byrd said. Coach Weiberg believes that Lincoln are a lot better defensively this year, but they’re looking forward to getting better in practice. Byrd states that playing on the road is more of a challenge compared to playing on their home floor. “We sort of lack a student section but sometimes the other schools have some serious student sections. That kind of makes us have to play two times harder, especially on defense,” Bryd said. Teammate Kevin Thomas is more than positive that a road game has no affect on the way they play. He feels that his team is self-motivated. “We’re going to beat them, we have something to prove. We shouldn’t have lost against Southern, so we are going to take it out on Lincoln next game,” Thomas said. Although Lincoln's record is not as impressive as it could be, the Griffon men are making sure that it doesn’t change the way they respond in the game. “We give the same effort every game, it doesn’t matter who we play,” Thomas said. In some cases, teams look at other teams with a not-so-good record and think they can come out and not give as much effort as they would against a team with a great record. “The way we're playing, it shouldn’t matter who our opponent is because we haven’t been playing the way that we should, but it can get in your head and if it does, it can be a bad thing," Bryd said. "If you look at it that way then it can go downhill quickly and we can’t let that happen.” Weiberg expresses how critical this game will be for the Griffon men. “It’s a very very important game for us, but really every game is important. We’ll prepare the same way and make sure the kids are aware that there’s a lot of teams that’ll go in and beat Lincoln, but we just have to be that team that doesn’t drop, we can’t be the team that doesn’t [beat them].” Weiberg said. “More than anything we better play really good defensively.”  

Second half too much for Griffons

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On Saturday, Jan. 24, Western started off their game against Missouri Southern hot, but went ice cold after the half.

Southern, who took control for the last half of the game, defeated the Griffons 77-65.

After the Griffons’ stunning comeback win against Southern Baptist in the second half just one week before, it is almost ironic that the same situation would happen against them.

Western started the game slow, trailing by as much as seven early on. But, they soon found a rhythm on offense.

With 10 minutes to go in the first half, forward Currie Byrd made a jump shot that gave the Griffons their first lead of the game.

That jumper started a 7-0 run for Western. The offense continued to gain momentum and took their lead into halftime.

Griffons led the Lions 41-35 at halftime. Western dominated from the floor, shooting 53.3 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc.

Southern shot 45.2 percent from the field and 30 percent from the arc.

But this was a true tale of two halves for Western.

The Lions opened up the second half by going on a dominating 27-3 run in the first 10 minutes. It only took them just over a minute to overcome the six-point deficit and take the lead at 43-41.

The Griffons eventually found a little fire on the offensive end, but just couldn’t catch up to Southern’s strong offense.

Western fell at home 77-65 to the Lions. The loss knocks them to an 8-9 record overall and 4-6 in MIAA play.

The Griffons went cold on offense, shooting 27.6 percent from the field, making just 8 of 29 shots.

Southern stayed consistent, shooting 42.3 percent.

Byrd said the team’s attitude had a big impact on how the second half went the way it did.

“We came out in the second half and thought that we could control it... They had better effort,” Byrd said. “You gotta have intensity in the second half and we didn’t have it.”

Head coach Brett Weiberg acknowledged the change in tempo was sudden.

“It’s very apparent that we didn’t play good defense, obviously,” Weiberg said. “That stretch in the second half, they played pretty good offense and our offense was poor.”

Forward Kevin Thomas said that he just tries to focus on one game at a time to keep improving.

“It’s a process,” Thomas said. “I’ve been trying to stay healthy. Each and every game, I’ve been trying to play better, bring better effort.”

Western will head to Jefferson City, Missouri, to face off against Lincoln on Thursday, Jan. 29. Tipoff is set for 7.30 p.m.

Griffons lose heartbreaker to Pitt State

In what appeared to be a game headed into overtime, a last second shot by Pittsburg State sent the Griffons to the locker room with low spirits. The Griffons lost the heartbreaker 63-61. On Saturday, Jan. 10, Western welcomed the Gorillas for the second game of their homestand. The game started slow for both teams. The Griffons took and held an early lead, but Pitt State soon went on a run of their own, taking the lead for the remaining 14 minutes of the first half. They led by as many as 12 points. At halftime, the Gorillas led the Griffons 32-21. Pitt State shot 60 percent from the field, while Western only shot 28 percent. Despite starting the second half down by double digits, the Griffons picked up the pace and went on a 10-2 run to get the score within five. From that point on, Western continued closing the gap on the Gorillas. By the 11 minute mark of the second half, it was 43-41 in favor of Pitt State. But, no matter how close the Griffons made it to tying, Pitt State seemed to find a big way to respond. Until the remaining four minutes, the momentum of the game seemed to be all Pitt State. A clutch three-point shot by Currie Byrd put the game within five and gave the Griffons a sliver of hope. A quick steal on the other end of the court by Cortrez Colbert led to a transition three-pointer by Hans Thun, making the score 57-55 with the Gorilla still leading. With under two minutes to go, Colbert hit a jump shot to tie it. Head coach Brett Weiberg admits that the team has plenty of things they need to work on. “I'm very, very disappointed in the… defensive possession,” Weiberg said. "It was terrible and something we've got to learn from." After a poor defensive play, Colbert made up for it with a quick layup with 20 seconds to go. The Griffons played solid defense to close the game. But, with three seconds left, Pitt State’s Javis Flynn sent up a prayer that managed to fall just as the buzzer sounded. Cole Clearman, whose stat line included six three-pointers, was pretty bummed to lose on a last second shot. "The points don't matter to me," Clearman said. "It hurts to lose on your home court." The Gorillas shot 55.8 percent from the field and 20 percent from beyond the arc. Western combated with 41.5 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc. "[We lacked] intensity in the first half," Byrd said. "We came out slow; lack of effort, no intensity and no emotion. It just wasn't there. We've been like that the past three games and we've had to claw back into it in the second half. We just need to find a way to pick it up in the first because that's the only way we're going to win in the future." The Griffons were led by Colbert and Clearman, each with 18 points respectively. Western will be on the road on Saturday, Jan. 17, as they head to Bolivar, Mo. to play Southwest Baptist. Tipoff is set for 3:30 p.m.

Seniors lead team towards conference win

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The Griffons are back on the road to play the Southwest Baptist University Bearcats after a three game home stand, which included a 61-63 buzzer beater loss to Pittsburg State University. Although Southwest Baptist is one spot ahead of Western in the MIAA standings, both teams have .500 records at 8-8 and 7-7 respectively. Head coach Brett Weiberg knows that this game is important for many reasons. “It is important because it is a game that will put us above or below them, depending on the outcome and because it is our next game,” Weiberg said. “We try to just take one game at a time and in this case it just happens to be SBU.” The mindset all season has been to focus on one game at a time, according to Weiberg. “We try to control what we can control so we can control the day,” Weiberg said. “We focus on one game at a time, one practice at a time, trying to get a little bit better.” Even though both teams are .500, Weiberg believes that the Griffons hold slight advantages over the Bearcats. “I do think we might have a little edge in quickness and I also think we could have an edge on 3-point shooting,” Weiberg said. Western will have to figure out how to work around Southwest Baptist’s guard Menas Stephens who leads his team in rebounds and blocked shots. The Griffons will also need to create a game plan to contain Stephens on offense, who leads his team in points. The Griffons will lean on their senior leadership for guidance during the game. Of those seniors, leading scorer Cortrez Colbert, will be counted on to lead the offensive front along side freshman 3-point leader Cole Clearman. Their defense will need to be stingy and will depend on forward Kevin Thomas, who leads Western in both rebounds and blocks. Bench players could also be an important piece to being successful according to forward Currie Byrd. “Bench scoring helps a lot because sometimes when the starters are struggling they need guys to come off of the bench and be a little spark plug,” Byrd said. Western will be without former leading scorer Ryan Devers who has been off of the roster since mid-December due to academic ineligibility. The team has quickly adapted to the loss, explains Weiberg. “What we lose the most is the scoring aspect, but everything else, we are as good or better,” Weiberg said. The Griffon’s leadership will be put to the test as they travel to Bolivar, Mo., to face the Bearcats on Saturday, Jan. 17 at 3:30 p.m.