The words were music to Austin Wright’s ears.
“Coach told me he was going to call my number because they play a zone,” Wright said. “He told me I’d get a chance to shoot. He said if I didn’t shoot, I was coming out. So, I just started shooting.”
And boy, did he shoot it.
Wright, 6-foot-1, 163-pound freshman from Bixby, Okla., drilled five of Missouri Southern’s school record-tying 15 3-point goals as the Lions gunned down Missouri Western 95-69 Saturday night at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
The Lions (7-4, 2-1 MIAA) shot 52 percent (35-of-60) overall from the floor and were 15-of-24 from long range to tie the record set against St. Gregory’s on Dec. 6, 2003. And remember, the Lions did not make a trey in a 58-50 victory at Arkansas Tech just over a month ago.
“We’ve all known we’re a better shooting team than what we’ve shot,” Lions coach Robert Corn said. “I don’t think we’re as good as what we shot tonight. We had one of those extraordinary games, but by the same token, we know we’re not a 28 percent shooting team from the 3-point line, and we’re not a 43 percent shooting team from 2.”
Junior guard Marquis Addison hit four treys in the last five minutes of the first half and finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Lions. Wright added 19 points, and Stephen Atkinson had three 3s for half of his 18 points plus nine rebounds and three steals.
The Lions also received production on the inside as Jordan Talbert had 13 points and four blocked shots, and Greg Renfroe tallied 10 points.
In addition to a season-high points, the Lions handed out a season-high 25 assists, led by seven from Matt Everson.
Wright played in six of the Lions’ first 10 games and was only 1-of-10 from the field. But he made an early entrance against the Griffons and quickly paid dividends as he popped in a 3 from the right corner with 13:35 left in the half.
“Right then, I was like OK, it’s going to be a good night,” Wright said. “Our team, we shot well. They just congratulated me and said keep working, you’re helping us. They gave me the confidence.”
A minute later the hit another 3 from the same spot and one from the right wing, then he made a layup to lift the Lions from a four-point deficit when he entered to a 21-21 tie.
“We had a little heart-to-heart (Friday) in practice,” Corn said. “I knew with them playing a zone, he is our best outside shooter even though his numbers for the season don’t show it. He’s our best outside shooter. We knew we were going to have to shoot the basketball well to be effective against it. We felt like he was going to be a key to this game.
“I told him you have the green light. You’re the only guy on this team that can shoot it after one pass, but I want you ready to shoot it. If you hesitate, you’re going to come out. If you catch it and shoot it, you’re going to shoot a high percentage. And that’s what he did. He made that first one, and he took off from there.”
Two Talbert free throws put the Lions ahead to stay 27-25, and Addison’s late barrage of 3s plus one each by R.J. Leverette (off the glass) and Atkinson pushed the Lions to a 48-35 halftime lead.
Wright — appropriately — hit the record-tying trey from the left wing off a pass from center Greg Renfroe with 4:15 left. Moments later Matt Everson’s attempt for a new record was on line but just short, and while the fans screamed for one more attempt in the waning seconds, the Lions as they always do just held the ball.
Adarius Fulton led Missouri Western (5-7, 1-3) with 14 points, followed by Cedric Clinkscales with 12 and Dzenan Mrkaljevic with 10.
The words were music to Austin Wright’s ears.
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