The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 26, 2013

Southern has played 'little guy' role well

By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor

— When an NCAA Division I school plays host to a smaller college in football and basketball, it’s supposed to be a win-win situation — a victory for the home team and financial benefits for the visitor.

But sometimes, the little guy cashes in at both the bank and the victory column. Just ask Missouri Southern.

Through the years, the Lions have memorable victories over D-Is in football and men’s basketball.

On Jan. 7, 1987, the Lions knocked off Big Eight Conference member Oklahoma State 81-75 in Gallagher Hall. The Cowboys scored 19 seconds into the game, but that proved to be their only lead as Missouri Southern shot 62 percent (18-of-29) from the field while building a 40-30 halftime lead and 58 percent (30-of-52) for the game.

“I saw Oklahoma State play on TV during Christmas break and I knew we could beat them,” said Chris Tuggle, whose 22 points led four Lions in double figures. “We ran our offense, took good shots, and once we got the lead, the pressure was on them.”

Marvin Townsend collected 20 points and 10 rebounds for coach Chuck Williams’ Lions, and guards Willie Lasater and Reggie Grantham had 13 and 12 respectively. The Lions also hit 20-of-29 free throws — 17-of-22 in the second half — while OSU was 14-of-27 at the line.

“We got beat by a team that wanted to win more than we did,” said first-year Cowboys coach Leonard Hamilton, who directed his team through a postgame practice before leaving the arena that night.

Missouri Southern’s march to the 1972 NAIA Division II football championship included a midseason 7-0 victory at Nevada-Las Vegas. The Lions were looking for their fifth victory, which was more than they had in their first four years as a four-year program. And they had added motivation after a Las Vegas newspaper headline referred to them as “Missouri Who?”

Junior tailback Terry Starks scored on a 36-yard run in the first quarter for the game’s only touchdown, and the Lion defense protected the lead with two stops inside the 10-yard line in the last four minutes. Marty Galbraith and Jeff Wolverton combined to knock the quarterback out of bounds at the 2-yard line to end one series, and Jack Duda’s interception at the 5 halted the Rebels’ final possession.

Eleven years later, the Lions opened the 1983 season with a 29-21 victory at Wichita State.

Running backs Harold Noirfalise and Tommy Laughlin rushed for 88 yards apiece, and Noirfalise scored TDs on runs of 15, 8 and 2. Jeff Kilbane, making his first start for the Lions, hit 14-of-27 passes for 198 yards and one touchdown, a 39-yarder to Steve Sater.

The defense came up with four fumble recoveries and two interceptions.

“The offense gave us big plays in the first half, and the defense did the job in the second half,” Lions coach Jim Frazier said after the game. “We got good jobs out of our kickers, so it was a complete team victory.”

Most of the Lions’ Division I opposition came in baseball as former coach Warren Turner annually filled his early-season schedule with games against the likes of Arkansas, Oral Roberts, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. The Lions don’t have those chances now because of a reduction in Division II games and an increase in MIAA games.

The Lions’ first baseball Division I foe was Arkansas on March 9, 1976, when coach Ed Wuch’s team lost 7-0 in the first game, then tied the Razorbacks 0-0 in the second game. Five days later, the Lions swept Iowa State by identical 6-5 scores.

On April 30, 1979, Arkansas came to Joe Becker Stadium for a twinbill. The Lions won the opener 9-8 as Gary Wallace’s two-run double highlighted a three-run seventh inning. The Razorbacks took the second game 6-5.

That Arkansas team had future major leaguers Johnny Ray and Kevin McReynolds in the lineup. The Razorbacks finished 46-13, qualified for the College World Series for the first time and lost to Cal State Fullerton 2-1 in the championship game.

According to the MSSU media guide, the Lions have 48 victories against D-I baseball teams. They have the most wins (9) and losses (58) against ORU. They went 5-1 against Iowa State, and they also have five wins against Kansas. They’re 2-1 against Notre Dame and 2-0 against Wisconsin, winning 2-0 and 13-10 in 1981.