By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
KIRKSVILLE, Mo. —
In its previous road game, Missouri Southern scored a total of 16 points in the first half at Arkansas Tech.
But one week later, it’s hard to imagine the Lions getting off to a better start, grabbing a 13-2 lead in the first five minutes and expanding it to 22-6 during the next 31⁄2 minutes en route to a 70-56 victory over Truman State on Saturday afternoon at Pershing Arena.
Juniors Marquis Addison and Jordan Talbert ignited the Lions’ quick getaway, combining for the first 13 points. But there was also good work on the defensive end, including three steals by Addison in the first five minutes and blocked shots by Talbert and R.J. Leverette.
“Our defense was really good early on,” Lions coach Robert Corn said. “We were able to get some steals, and from that, we were able to get some confidence on the offensive end. We were moving the ball with quickness. Our offensive execution was really good, and that’s what you have to do. You have to get off to a quick start on the road.”
Addison finished with 22 points, including an 11-of-16 effort at the foul line, and he filled his statistics line with five rebounds, four assists and six steals.
Talbert, despite being hampered by second-half foul trouble, registered his third double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Sophomore guard Morgan Smith provided a spark early in the second half and scored a career-best 11 points and dished out three assists for the Lions (6-3, 1-0 MIAA).
The Lions’ first three baskets in the second half were a layup by Smith after an Addison steal, a baseline jumper by Addison off a pass from Smith and a foul-line jumper by Smith off a pass from Talbert.
“I felt very comfortable out there, playing with the starters, with the bench players,” Smith said. “We all mesh well together.”
“His energy is good,” Corn said. “People say why is Morgan starting … it’s because of his energy level. One play he had, he got the offensive rebound and was able to get to the line and make two free throws. That was one of those times when we were struggling. He comes up with a lot of loose balls and does a lot of positive things for us.”
The Lions stretched their 35-25 halftime lead to 45-29 four minutes into the second half, but within the next 90 seconds, first Addison and then Talbert went to the bench with three fouls. The lead was 12 when they returned about three minutes later.
“Knowing how deep we are this year and everybody coming off the bench with confidence and playing together, we weren’t too worried about them being out in foul trouble for too long,” Smith said.
The Lions had to weather a second-half dryspell when they went more than eight minutes without a field goal. However, they maintained a double-digit lead most of the time by converting 10-of-12 free throws. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, had only three field goals during that span and cut only one point off a 14-point deficit.
“You have to find a way to manufacture points when you’re really struggling,” Corn said. “They got it down to seven, and we were able to get to the free-throw line.”
Truman State (3-4, 1-1), also placed three players in double figures, led by Tyler Anderson’s 14 points. Seth Jackson scored 12, and Mike Carlson had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
After winning their conference opener, the Lions have almost a month off before their next league game on Jan. 3 at home against Northwest Missouri State.
“That (1-0 league record) is what our goal was, a better Christmas for us,” Smith said.
“I hate it that we have such a long layoff now,” Corn said. “I told the guys in the locker room I wish we were playing next week because our guys are really buying into what Ronnie (Ressel) and Jeff (Boschee, assistant coaches) are teaching. You hate for the long layoff, but we’ll have an opportunity to get some individual work in.”