By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
In a shootout at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center corral, two missed free throws decided the outcome.
Missouri Southern grabbed both misses and converted them into points during a five-point possession in the last minute en route to a 100-91 victory over Southwest Baptist in MIAA men’s basketball action Thursday night.
The Lions (10-10, 5-7 MIAA), who scored 54 points in their previous home game Jan. 26 against Northeastern State, shot 59 percent from the floor (36-of-61) while snapping a five-game losing streak. They made half of their 16 3-point attempts, including a 7-of-11 sniping while building a 53-46 halftime lead.
“Hitting shots,” guard Cameron Cornelius said. “Playing like the coaches have been telling us to play, which is to go out and have fun, play your game ... play instead about worrying what will happen. We still have to work on defense, of course.”
Junior guard Marquis Addison tallied 26 points to lead four Lions in double figures. Addison, whose 3-pointer from the top of the key put the Lions ahead to stay 84-82 with 4:23 left, flirted with a triple-double, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out seven assists.
“It was the most fun we’ve had in weeks obviously,” Addison said. “It was great to get that monkey off our back. It was a happy locker room, all smiles. Guys stepped up tonight and really played great games. We had a lot of contributions tonight, and that’s what our team needs moving forward. We have to build off this game.”
Cornelius tallied 18 points, and Jordan Talbert and Stephen Atkinson contributed 13 and 12, respectively. Talbert and Atkinson also snared eight rebounds as the Lions won the rebounding battle 37-31.
Guard Preston Guiot hit 6-of-10 from 3-point range while scoring 22 points for Southwest Baptist (7-13, 5-7), which shot 46 percent (31-of-67). Damion Hooks added 18 points, Rashaad Brown-Peterson and Jaywuan Hill each had 11, and Gilbert Gyamfi scored 10.
Both teams reached their season scoring averages — 71 Lions, 69 Bearcats — midway through the second half. There were four ties and four lead changes during a two-minute stretch before the Lions secured the decision with one key sequence.
With Missouri Southern ahead 91-87, Cornelius got the ball near midcourt and drove quickly to the basket for a layup as he was fouled. Cornelius gave no thought to pulling the ball out and using clock.
“My game has always been straight drive,” Cornelius said. “One of my teammates said I have tunnel vision when I’m going to the basket, and it is kind of like that. The way I see it, the majority of the time I’m going to get fouled. Coaches have told me to work on going up strong and getting the and-1 play. I knew I was going to get fouled. It was the concentration of finishing at the basket.”
Cornelius missed the free throw, but Atkinson grabbed the rebound and went back up for a field goal. Atkinson also was fouled, and he also missed the free throw, but the Lions tipped the ball out to Cornelius, and the Lions worked 15 seconds off the clock before Addison was fouled. Addison made the back end of the two-shot free throw for a 96-87 lead with 34 seconds left.
“There were four big plays down the stretch,” Lions coach Robert Corn said. “Marquis’ 3 was big. Matt (Everson’s) layup in transition when he made a nice move was big (for a 91-86 lead). ‘Cam’ taking the ball to the basket for the 2-plus-1, and then Stephen getting the missed free throw and scoring.
“Those plays were the difference in the basketball game. Up until that point, it looked like whoever was going to have the ball last was going to win the game because neither team was stopping each other.”
Everson’s free throw with five seconds left put the Lions at the century mark for the first time at home since a 107-65 victory over Lincoln on Dec. 10, 2011.
“Marquis said ‘We scored 100?’ And somebody said it would have been 101 if you had made that free throw,” Cornelius said. “I didn’t even know we had 100. I just looked up at the scoreboard and thought ‘oh.’ That feels good.”