The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

February 16, 2013

Pitt State dominates against Northeastern

By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer

— This time, for the Pittsburg State Gorillas, there was no collapse. There was no colossal disappointment.

Just a convincing win on Saturday afternoon at John Lance Arena.

A week after blowing a 23-point second-half lead, the Gorillas put together what coach Kevin Muff said was probably their most complete performance in an 89-59 dismantling of a Northeastern State team that entered the day just a half-game out of the MIAA lead.

Pitt State improved to 15-7, 9-5 in the MIAA. Northeastern State is 17-7, 10-6.

“That was probably our best, most complete game to this point of the season, which is good if we can continue and build on it,” Muff said. “This is the time you want to be peaking.”

Perhaps the biggest factor in Pitt State’s dominant win was the return of two regular starters — JaVon McGee and Courtney Ingram.

McGee and Ingram had been out since the last time the Gorillas played Northeastern State — a last-second RiverHawks win on Jan. 23 — Ingram with an ankle injury and McGee with an injured shoulder sustained when he was hit by a car on his bicycle.

McGee came back with a vengeance — grabbing 10 rebounds and scoring 16 points, including an emphatic breakaway dunk that capped a 17-2 Pitt State run that staked the Gorillas to a 25-7 lead.

Ingram was more reserved, playing 22 minutes and scoring four points.

“They came back and we felt whole again,” Pitt State senior Rico Pierrevilus said of McGee and Ingram. “It just felt so much better. They’re guys we share blood, sweat and tears with and they’re back with us to finish the season off right.”

Four Gorillas scored at least 15 points, led by Mark Nolen, who was 8 of 10 from the field — including 4 of 5 from beyond the arc — and scored a game-high 22 points.

Pierrevilus scored 18, McGee added his 16 and Kaleb Porter scored 15 points while dishing out eight of Pitt State’s 20 assists.

The Gorillas shot 57 percent from the field — 70 percent in the first half — and had an assist on 20 of their 32 field goals.

“ I think the biggest key in this game, the biggest stat line, is 20 assists,” Muff said. “We were really good at making that extra pass. You have to set your guy up and put him in a position to score and our guys did a good job of that with one another.”

The RiverHawks were led by Bryton Hobbs’ 16 points while Jermaine Bransford scored 12. Bransford delivered the game’s most impressive play when he soared over a Gorilla defender to grab an alley-oop pass before emphatically slamming it home. The play cut the Pitt State lead to 18 and sparked the NSU bench, but Bransford was immediately slapped with a technical for taunting and Pitt State, in turn, scored four straight points.

NSU didn’t threaten in the second half, much to the relief of Muff and the Pitt State crowd, who still had visions last week’s collapse dancing in their heads.

“It’s in your mind, you can’t help it,” Muff said. “But being so fresh in our mind I think helped our guys guard against a letdown or complacency.

“Last week was a hard week. Saturday night and Sunday were difficult to take. We did some self-examination as a coaching staff and as a team. We challenged them in a lot of ways and they stepped up to the challenge. I’ve very proud of them.”