By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
Coach Kevin Muff and the Pittsburg State Gorillas expect a special atmosphere when they take to court today.
And with good reason.
The Gorillas, winners of seven straight, are off to a 10-1 start, their best since the 2007-08 season. They’re 3-0 in MIAA play and will welcome the Northwest Missouri Bearcats — co-league leaders — for a nationally televised (CBS College Sports) game at 2 p.m. on the newly renovated Whetzel Court, which will be dedicated earlier in the day.
It’s all part of a “Gorilla Gold Rush” promotion that will see the first 2,000 fans receive free shirts.
“If you can’t get up for a day like that, you need to get your blood pressure and heart rate checked,” Muff said. “It’s a TV game, we have all the extra stuff going on and you have two of the top teams in the conference, at the moment, facing each other.”
Pitt State hasn’t lost since an 89-79 setback to Newman (now ranked 18th nationally) on Nov. 20. They came back from a two-week break on Thursday night and pulled away for a 76-62 win over visiting Nebraska-Kearney.
“I don’t know how well we played,” Muff said of Thursday’s win. “They were more ready to play at the start than we were. We were able to create some turnovers down the stretch and get some easy baskets. We have some things we need to improve on in our halfcourt game.”
Northwest Missouri enters today’s game after a thrilling last-second 69-68 overtime win at Missouri Southern on Thursday.
The Bearcats are 10-2 overall and share the MIAA lead with the Gorillas and Northeastern State. They were ranked as high as No. 10 in the NABC/Division II Top 25 before suffering their two losses in Hawaii last month.
“First, they’re a well-coached team,” Muff said. “And they’re a low-possession team, which is in contrast to what we want to do. They want to keep the score around 50 or 60. We want to get it up around the 80s.”
DeAngelo Hailey, who hit the game-winner against Southern on Thursday, leads the Bearcats with 14.5 points per game. Dillon Starzi adds 13.8 points and a team-best 5.5 rebounds per game.
The Bearcats, primarily using a man-to-man defense, hold their opponents to an average of 60.2 points per game, the best mark in the conference.
“I’m excited to face that man-to-man defense,” Muff said. “I think that’s a good opportunity for us to try and improve on some things.”
The Pittsburg State and Northwest women will start the day’s games at 11:30 a.m.
PSU is coming off Thursday’s 62-43 win over Nebraska-Kearney, a win that moved the Gorillas to 2-1 in the MIAA.
Northwest Missouri enters with an identical 8-3 overall and 2-1 league record. The Bearcats suffered their first league loss on Thursday at Missouri Southern.
Whetzel Court — named for Alan and Roberta Whetzel’s contributions toward the renovations of John Lance Arena — will be dedicated in a 10:30 a.m. ceremony.
A free pancake feed will begin at 10 a.m.