The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

February 12, 2014

Lions hope to avenge loss

Northwest Missouri comes with 10-game win streak

There are several reasons why Northwest Missouri State is sitting atop the men’s basketball standings.

For starters, the Bearcats have a talented team. They have won 10 straight games and are 14-1 since closing November with back-to-back losses.

And, the Bearcats have found ways to win close games, like a 73-69 overtime decision at Nebraska-Kearney and an 83-76 triumph at Washburn after trailing by 14 points at halftime and then outscoring the Ichabods 10-3 in the closing 43 seconds.

Then there was a 79-78 home victory over Missouri Southern on Jan. 22 when guard DeShaun Cooper nailed a 19-foot, contested, step-back jumper from the left wing with three seconds left. Eight days later the Bearcats won 63-61 at Lindenwood.

“Any time a team is having a great year, there are four or five opportunities when someone has a chance to get you and they don’t get it done,” Missouri Southern coach Robert Corn said. “You tip your hat to those teams who can find a way to win close games.”

The Lions get their chance today to avenge last month’s loss when the Bearcats come to the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center for a 7:30 tipoff.

The Lions (15-5, 9-4 MIAA) have slipped to fourth place in the league after losing their last two starts to Central Missouri. The Mules shot 58 and 59 percent in the two games and scored 97 points in Saturday’s five-point victory at MSSU.

In the Lions’ last victory, they gave up 94 points in a two-point triumph at Southwest Baptist.

While the Lions have reached 90 points in two of their last three games, the Bearcats (18-5, 13-1) have scored at least 90 in the last three games against Lincoln (92-59), Missouri Western (92-64) and Lincoln again (97-78).

Five Bearcats average in double figures — DeShaun Cooper at 16.0, Dillon Starzl at 14.5, Conner Crooker at 12.7 and Bryston Williams and Grant Cozad both at 10.9.

But Cooper, the 5-foot-8, 165-pound senior point guard, is the key to the Bearcats’ success. His 32 points last month against the Lions was a career high, but he surpassed that last Saturday with 35 at Lincoln.

“He’s one of the premier players not only in our league but in Division II basketball,” Corn said. “He’s quick. He can get by you, but he is strong enough to take contact and still make the play. He always plays with his head up, looking for the next play for him to score or to kick it out. He’s thinking a play ahead.

“They are shooting the ball really well from the 3-point line (44 percent to the Lions’ 35 percent). They have three or four guys who have really shot it well, plus they have a bunch of big bodies on the inside who are good.

“We have to do a better job on defense, particularly in containing the point guard. You look at our four conference losses, the point guards have really hurt us — Cooper, Daylen Robinson of Central Missouri and Craig Nicholson of Fort Hays State. We have to do a much better job slowing those guys down. You’re not going to stop them because they are great players, but you have to try to find some what to slow them down a little bit.”

The Lions lead the conference in scoring at 85.6 points per game, three points more than the Bearcats.

Four Lions carry double-figure scoring averages — Marquis Addison at 16.3, Jordan Talbert at 12.4, Cameron Cornelius at 12.3 and Slim Magee at 11.4.

Magee, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds in Saturday’s loss against Central Missouri, get his first start for the Lions tonight. It’s the first change the Lions have made in their starting lineup all season.

Point guard Lane Barlow, averaging 7.5 points, led the Lions with 17 in the loss at Northwest Missouri. Addison and Talbert contributed 16 and 14 points, respectively.

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