The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

January 21, 2014

Southern shoots for MIAA lead at Northwest

Missouri Southern appeared at No. 22 in the NABC Division II poll on Tuesday.

But the immediate concern for the Lions is to become No. 1 — more specifically, No. 1 in the MIAA.

The Lions and Northwest Missouri State collide tonight at Bearcat Arena in Maryville with first place in the conference standings awaiting the winner.

The Bearcats (13-5, 8-1 MIAA), who received votes in this week’s national poll, are first in the league, one-half game ahead of the Lions (13-2, 7-1).

“These games are the reason you get into athletics,” Lions coach Robert Corn said. “You love to compete in games when both teams are really good basketball teams.

“Northwest has a real good point guard. They can hit the 3, and they have a strong inside game as well. We certainly have a challenge ahead of us and one we’re looking forward to.”

Ironically, both teams suffered their conference losses on Jan. 4 at home — the Lions 76-67 against Fort Hays State and the Bearcats 81-77 to Central Oklahoma.

And a little more irony, the Lions beat Central Oklahoma on the road 92-79, and the Bearcats beat Fort Hays State on the road 88-74 when they made 10 3-pointers in the first half and 13 for the game.

Point guard DeShaun Cooper, 5-foot-8 senior, is the catalyst for the Bearcats, averaging 14.0 points and 4.6 assists after sitting out last season with a knee injury. He’s caused the Lions fits in the past, including the last game of the 2011-12 regular season when he had 21 points and eight assists in a 67-64 Bearcats win that decided a share of the league title.

“He can score, and he’s one of those players who can make guys around him better,” Corn said.

Dillon Starzl, 6-8 senior forward, leads the Bearcats at 14.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He’s shooting 62 percent overall from the floor and 43 percent from 3-point range.

“They have power on the inside, and Starzl is a good shooter from the 3,” Corn said. “The way they shoot the 3, it will stretch the defense.”

Like the Bearcats, the Lions can score on the inside or outside. Guard Marquis Addison’s 16.2 average leads four players in double figures, followed by Cameron Cornelius (13.2), Jordan Talbert (12.1) and Slim Magee (11.4).

Led by Talbert (7.3 rebound average), Magee (5.8) and Greg Renfroe (5.1), the Lions have outrebounded their opponents by 5.9 boards per game, tied for second in the league with Washburn and one behind Central Missouri. The Bearcats hold a 3.8 rebounding advantage over their foes.

“A big key will be rebounding,” Corn said. “Another big key is taking care of the basketball. Any time in a big game, it usually comes down to execution and making sure you don’t make any mistakes.”

The Lions average 14.7 turnovers per game, three more than the Bearcats. However, the Lions average 1.3 more steals per game, and they rank 12th nationally at 5.5 blocked shots per game.

The Lions beat Lincoln 76-63 last Saturday in a foul-filled game that saw the Lions shoot 48 free throws and make 38 — five below the school record. In the second half the Lions scored 12 points on field goals and 24 on free throws.

“It is tough to get a hold of the game, but that is what you have to do to win championships,” point guard Lane Barlow said of the repeated stops in action. “You have to be able to play in every aspect of the game. Games like this help us prepare for down the road.”

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