The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

February 23, 2014

Coach, seniors celebrate final home game with romp past Pittsburg State

While Missouri Southern scored 110, it wasn’t difficult to pick out two of the most popular points.

With a 2-on-1 break in transition, Marquis Addison lobbed a pass to fellow four-year senior and captain Jordan Talbert for a two-handed dunk during a second-half blitz that propelled the Lions to a 110-90 victory over Pittsburg State on Saturday afternoon before 3,345 fans at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

The Lions (19-5, 13-4 MIAA) won their fourth straight and clinched a top-4 finish in the conference standings, which gives them a quarterfinal berth in next month’s postseason tournament in Kansas City.

The Gorillas (7-17, 3-14) suffered their seventh straight loss and remained two games behind Missouri Western for the 12th and final spot in the tournament. The Gorillas hold the tiebreaker.

Seven players reached double figures as the Lions shot 57 percent and cracked the century mark for the second straight game and the seventh time this season.

Sophomore guard Austin Wright and junior guard Lane Barlow finished with 18 points apiece.

Wright’s sharpshooting — 5-for-5 overall and 3-for-3 from long range — produced 13 first-half points and sparked the Lions to a 46-39 halftime lead.

“Austin saved us,” Robert Corn said after his final home game as the Lions’ coach. “Every time that ball left his hands, he was confident it was going in. You could tell from his body language it was going in.

“Blaine (Miller) hit one, too, at the end of the first half, very similar to the Southwest Baptist game. We have two guys coming off the bench who can make 3s, and if they can continue doing that, it’s going to make us tougher as the year goes on.”

Barlow popped in 17 points after halftime, including a coast-to-coast drive for a layup, a three-point play and a 3-pointer during a 15-2 spurt in the first four minutes of the second half that opened a 61-41 lead.

“Our defense picked up,” Corn said. “We got some baskets off steals. We got out in the lanes and ran the floor really well.”

Addison made 10 of the Lions’ 36 free throws — the team went 36-of-50 from the line — and finished with 17 points, nine rebounds, three assists and four steals. Greg Renfroe, who had five dunks among his six field goals, and Talbert each scored 13, and Cameron Cornelius and Slim Magee added 11 and 10, respectively.

The Addison-to-Talbert dunk came in the middle of an 11-0 run for a 72-46 lead.

“Jordan always gets on me because I don’t throw him the lob,” Addison said. “I missed him in the first half when I threw a chest pass and it should have been an oop. I told him I’ll get you the next time and luckily I had an opportunity. I threw it up and he went and flushed it. Jordan is an incredible athlete, and I’m happy we finally got our oop connection in our last game here at Leggett & Platt.”

“Earlier we had a chance, and I told him to throw it up next time,” Talbert said. “The next time he threw a perfect oop and we capitalized on it.”

After that, the only problem for Corn was getting all of his seniors out of the game for one final ovation from the home crowd.

Addison, Talbert and Matt Everson exited together with 4:54 left when Magee, the other senior, had a two-shot free throw. He missed the second free throw, and on the next trip he missed another free throw before he made one and left the game with 3:46 left.

PSU junior Devon Branch led all scorers with 29 points — 19 in the first half. But he was held scoreless in the first eight minutes of the second half when the Lions broke away.

“It was probably the best 15 minutes of basketball we played all year,” Gorillas coach Kevin Muff said. “I thought we were good in our man-to-man defensively. I thought we did some nice things offensively. When you get Devon scoring like that, he’s a handful and he’s hard to guard.

“They did a nice job of adjusting in the second half. They were more physical and aggressive than what we were offensively. They were more aggressive defensively.”

Jake Bullard, Connor Kjer and Ethan Cordray each scored 12 points, and Alex Williams had 11 for the Gorillas, who shot 43 percent.

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