By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Stephen Atkinson’s second career start at Missouri Southern produced a career-high scoring performance.
Atkinson fired in 13 points in the first 11 minutes and finished with 20 as the Lions coasted past Central Bible College from Springfield 69-39 on Tuesday night at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
Season scoring leaders Marquis Addison and Jordan Talbert played 24 minutes apiece and contributed 10 and nine points, respectively, as the Lions (5-3) won their final game before Saturday afternoon’s MIAA opener at Truman State.
“We knew coming into this game that we were trying to get ready for conference,” Atkinson said. “Not overlooking them or anything, but we’re trying to get on a good roll and get our first conference win on the road this weekend.”
The Lions also gave head coach Robert Corn career victory No. 380, moving him into fourth place in league history. Corn became the Lions’ coach in the 1989-90 season, the same time that the school joined the MIAA.
“It says you’ve been in one place a long time,” Corn said. “We’ve had some pretty nice years. We’ve also had a few where it was a struggle, but we’ve had a lot of good kids come through the program and a lot of very talented kids come through the program. All the credit for anything like this goes to them.
The Lions shot 62 percent (16-of-26) while building a 40-18 halftime cushion and finished at 51 percent (29-of-57).
“We wanted to make sure we were patient, careful with the basketball and not have a lot of turnovers,” Corn said. “We didn’t do a very good job the first half — we had 10 turnovers, way too many, then we had only four the second half. We wanted to make sure we were solid defensively, make them take tough shots. I thought we did a decent job of that, but we still gave up too many offensive rebounds. They had 10 the first half, which is way too many.”
After going 0-for-8 from 3-point range in Saturday night’s road victory over Arkansas Tech, the Lions drilled three treys — two by Addison and one by Atkinson — in the first 90 seconds this time and were 5-of-10 for the game.
Atkinson, 6-foot-6, 195-pound sophomore from Benton, Ky., hit his first five shots from the floor – one a 3-pointer from the left wing – and both free-throw attempts. Atkinson tallied eight straight points — three baskets and two free throws — as the Lions built a 28-8 lead with nine minutes left in the first half.
“That was nice to see because we’ve always felt like Stephen was a threat offensively,” Corn said. “The way we’re running our offense right now, he can really thrive with his ability to shoot the basketball on the pick and pop. It was nice to see him come out and be aggressive, to look for his shot and be able to hit his shot.”
Atkinson passed his former high of 14 points last season against Truman State with a basket one minute into the second half. He wound up 8-of-15 from the floor, 2-of-3 from long range and 2-of-2 at the line, and he grabbed a career-best seven rebounds in 23 minutes.
“Shots weren’t falling for me in the second half,” Atkinson said. “You have to go through contact and stay strong.”
Jake Brown, Mason Horsley and Tim Brake scored eight points each for CBC (3-9), and Tony Malone claimed nine rebounds. The Spartans shot 31 percent from the floor (16-of-52, including 4-of-9 from the arc).