The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 26, 2013

Lions return home to face RiverHawks

By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor

— R.J. Leverette flirted with setting a Missouri Southern shooting record on Wednesday night.

Leverette, shooting 22 percent from 3-point range for the season, nailed his first six attempts from 3-point range at Emporia State. The Lions’ record for 3-point shooting percentage is Allan Brown’s 5-for-5 performance against Truman State on Feb. 15, 1997.

But with just under three minutes left Leverette’s final 3-point attempt was blocked. Still, he fired in a season-high 22 points on 8-of-9 sniping overall from the field, providing a bright spot in the Lions’ 76-62 loss.

“I’ve been going up (for extra shooting) after practice, around 8 o’clock at night,” Leverette said. “I get in there by myself and really get to concentrating.

“I know it’s all about repetition and confidence. (Wednesday night) I came out knowing that I was going to make shots because I’d been getting the repetition and the confidence fell into place. And I was rewarded.”

All of Leverette’s offense came out of the offense, and some of them were well beyond the arc.

“That came from just playing in the flow of the game,” he said. “I was just trying to help us come back and win the game. Forcing shots is not really part of my game. I’ve had games this year where I’ve only taken one shot, and I’ve also had games where I took double-digit shots. Whatever I get out of the flow in the offense is what I take. I’m just trying to help my team.”

“He took what the defense gave him,” Lions coach Robert Corn said. “He did a nice job of stepping into his shot and shooting the ball with confidence.”

The Lions, looking to scissor a two-game skid, are home this afternoon against Northeastern State.

“We dropped a bad one at home the last time (74-66 one week ago to Nebraska-Kearney), then we come out and lose on the road,” Leverette said. “It will be good to get back at home.”

The RiverHawks (13-4, 6-3 MIAA) are third in the conference standings after Wednesday night’s 64-62 home victory over Pittsburg State. The RiverHawks were picked 14th in the preseason polls.

Guard Bryton Hobbs hit the game-winning shot with 6.6 seconds left against PSU and finished with 23 points, three assists and four steals. Jermaine Bransford, a senior forward who transferred from Coffeyville Community College, had 19 points and 11 rebounds – his eighth double-double in the last 11 games.

“They’re playing well,” Corn said. “They kind of went through a lull, but they are playing well now. We’ve played Larry Gipson’s teams for years. We know they are going to set a lot of screens, and you have to be a tough basketball team and fight through the screens or they are going to get wide-open looks.

“They’ve always had good shooters, and defensively they are going to get inside the 3-point line and make it real difficult to get inside their defense. We have to do a great job executing.”

The Lions have scored in the 60s the last two games after getting at least 87 points in three of their previous four games.

“When we’ve played well, there has been very little scoring off the dribble,” Corn said. “The last couple of games we’ve relied on the dribble way too much, and we didn’t get anything in transition.

“That comes back to not being able to rebound. The Nebraska-Kearney game, I’d say we had our hands on five or six basketballs that were 50-50 rebounds, and they got every one of them. At Emporia there were 50-50 rebounds, and they got them. Those are rebounds we have to start securing so we can get out in transition and get some things going. Once you get some things in transition, then all of a sudden your halfcourt offense seems to click a lot easier.”

“We’re definitely capable of playing with anybody in this league and beating anybody in this league,” Leverette said, “But maybe with inexperience in some players, including myself, we tend to crumble when things get tough. We definitely have to work on that.”