The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

January 4, 2014

Lions catching Tigers at bad time as conference play resumes

Two of the MIAA’s top scoring teams collide when Missouri Southern battles Fort Hays State today at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

The Lions (9-1, 3-0 MIAA) are second in the league at 89.4 points per game. The Tigers (8-3, 0-3) are next at 87.2 points. Missouri Southern has allowed 69.4 points per game, four fewer than the Tigers.

The Lions are one of three MIAA teams with unblemished conference records, joining Northeastern State (4-0) and Northwest Missouri State (3-0).

Fort Hays State was the preseason conference favorite, but the Tigers have begun league play with overtime road losses to Central Missouri 93-85 and Missouri Western 82-79, and an 88-74 home loss to Northwest Missouri State when the Bearcats hit 10-of-14 3-point shots in the first half and 13-of-20 for the game.

“Northwest shot the ball so well that game ... they could have beaten any D-2 team,” Lions coach Robert Corn said. “We’re catching them at a bad time from the standpoint they are coming here mad. They have their backs against the wall, losing three games like that.

“They are going to come here and give us their best shot. We have to make sure we understand that, match their intensity level and understand we are in for a tough ball game.”

The Lions, who have won seven straight since a 74-72 home loss to Arkansas-Fort Smith, returned to practice on Dec. 30.

“Obviously there are a few guys who ate a few more cookies and pie than they needed to,” Corn said. “But for the most part, everyone came back in pretty good shape.”

The Lions, who fell two spots shy of making the latest NABC Division II national poll, have four players averaging in double figures — Marquis Addison at 16.4, Jordan Talbert at 13.0, Cameron Cornelius at 12.6 and Slim Magee at 11.7.

Cornelius leads the Lions in league play at 16.7 points, and Austin Wright has contributed 12.5 points in league games.

The Tigers return eight players from last year’s team that shared the league title with Central Missouri.

Dwayne Brunson, 6-foot-7 senior forward, was a first-team all-conference pick last year and averages 18.4 points and 8.6 rebounds this season. Point guard Craig Nicholson, 5-8 sophomore and last year’s MIAA freshman of the year, and 6-3 senior guard Carson Konrade add 15.6 and 15.1 points respectively. Konrade ranks seventh nationally, hitting 57 percent of his 3-point shots (35-of-61).

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