The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 19, 2013

Cornelius stars off Lion bench

By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor

— Marquis Addison got off to one of the quickest starts of his career with 23 first-half points Wednesday night against Pittsburg State, but he quickly found himself on the bench after picking up his second, third and fourth personal fouls in the first three minutes of the second half.

Enter Cameron Cornelius.

Cornelius, who played four minutes in the first half, tallied 10 of his career-high 13 points in 16 second-half minutes to help the Lions beat the rival Gorillas 87-80.

“I always have to be prepared for that,” Cornelius said. “At the beginning of the season, I knew there would be a time eventually where he might get in foul trouble. I just didn’t know it was going to be our biggest game, but I was ready to come in and contribute.”

“We tell our kids when you get that opportunity, be ready to take advantage of it,” Lions coach Robert Corn said. “ ‘Cam’ certainly took advantage of it (Wednesday night).”

Cornelius, 6-foot sophomore guard from Wichita, was 3-of-3 from the floor and 6-of-9 from the line for his 13 points. He made one 3-pointer — a 30-footer from in front of the Lion coaching staff to beat the shot clock for a 54-45 lead with 14:16 left.

“That didn’t surprise me because we’ve seen that in practice,” Corn said. “No. 1, he elevates really well, and he’s strong. Once he learns our system a little bit, he’ll get more and more playing time because he is athletic enough to play in this league.”

Cornelius, a three-year starter at Derby High School, averaged 7.3 points and shot 56 percent from the field in one season at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan. He’s averaging 3.5 points for the Lions (4.7 in league games) and shooting 50 percent from the floor and 70 percent from the foul line.

“This is the first school that I’ve ever been at where they let me play free,” Cornelius said. “They let me play my game ... mainly drive, getting to the rim and getting fouled. On a good day, shooting 3s, and then defense. The strongest part has to be defense. I really like it here. Practice is one of the best parts of my day.”

Addison returned for the final 7-plus minutes and finished with a career-high 34 points. He ranks third in the MIAA scoring race at 18.6 points per game and shooting 48 percent from the floor, 44 percent from beyond the arc and 84 percent at the foul line.

Lions sophomore forward Stephen Atkinson also established a career best with 21 points against the Gorillas, raising his season average to 10.5 points. Atkinson’s shooting percentages: 46 percent form the floor, 39 percent from 3 and 77 percent at the line.

“I thought Stephen was solid the whole game,” Corn said. “He’s really improved his game. He’s a much better player this year than he was last year. He’s playing with a lot more confidence. So many times when you first come in and you don’t get a lot of minutes, you have a tendency to play passive. He’s through the passive stage now. He’s playing aggressive.”

The Lions (9-5, 4-2 MIAA) have won their last two games to climb into a three-way tie for second place in the conference standings, one game behind Central Missouri.

The Lions have another home game this afternoon against Nebraska-Kearney (4-11, 1-6), their first meeting since the Central States Intercollegiate Conference disbanded in 1989.

The Lopers are coming off a 78-64 home loss to Central Missouri. Pierre Newton had 16 points for the Lopers, and Tyler Shields had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Nebraska-Kearney averages 71.3 points, two fewer than the Lions, but the Lopers have allowed 78.9 points, 10 more than MSSU.