By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
JOPLIN, Mo. —
The Austin Wright shooting display, unveiled one week earlier in the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center, made its first road appearance in the MIAA on Saturday.
Wright, 6-foot-1 freshman guard from Bixby, Okla., set a career scoring high with 24 points as Missouri Southern pulled away in the second half for a 99-80 victory over Lincoln inside Jason Gymnasium.
Marquis Addison, rebounding from a cold shooting game two days earlier, tallied 20 points as the Lions (8-5, 3-2 MIAA) placed five players in double figures for the third straight game.
Jordan Talbert collected 12 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Stephen Atkinson also scored 12, and R.J. Leverette had 10, eight of them in the first six minutes to get the Lions off to a good start.
“When guys step up like that, it shows we have a really deep team,” Addison said. “We can obviously put points up on the board.”
Charles Cole led Lincoln (2-14, 1-5) with 22 points, followed by Devin Booker with 15, Jeremy Jackson with 14 and Cedric Ridle Jr. with 12, seven below his average.
Wright, who sank five 3-point goals while scoring 19 points two games earlier against Missouri Western, nailed 9-of-12 shots overall from the floor and 6-of-8 from the 3-point line.
“I did feel good,” Wright said. “We had a good shootaround, and we took everything serious because we got embarrassed our last game (95-69 loss at Lindenwood). We had a good mentality coming into the game.”
Addison – and the rest of the team – is surprised when Wright’s shot doesn’t rip the net.
“In practice you’ll find days where he might miss four or five times in all of pre-practice from beyond the arc,” Addison said. “It’s no surprise to any of the team that he makes them in the game. It’s a matter of teams don’t play the right zone or don’t close out to the shooter. It’s big time for him to come in and help us out. He’s the only guy on our team who has the green light, and he takes full advantage on days like today.”
“I’ve put in extra work,” Wright said. “I try to keep my shot pretty consistent. … It’s a lot of fun. I’m getting open looks, I’m hitting shots. My teammates are looking to get me the ball. It’s fun for everyone.”
The Lions, ahead 47-43 at halftime, began the second half with baskets by Addison and Stephen Atkinson. Wright then erupted for 13 points in just over six minutes to give the Lions a 70-58 advantage with 11 minutes left.
Wright nailed a 3 from the left corner, then one from the right wing. After four points by Atkinson, Wright stepped inside the arc and sank an 18-footer and six-footer, then stepped back outside for another trey.
“The way he’s shooting right now, I am surprised when it doesn’t go in,” Corn said. “There are two things. No. 1, Austin really has a lot of confidence in his shot right now. But also, our basketball team has a lot of confidence in Austin. They are looking for him. They are setting screens for him to get him open looks. Whenever he catches and gets good looks at the basket, I expect it to go in.”
The Lions shot 64 percent (18-of-28) in the second half to raise their game total to 55 percent (35-of-64) compared to Lincoln’s 31-of-75 for 41 percent.
“Any time you have a performance like we did Thursday night, you’re concerned about how you’re going to respond, especially when you’re on the road in a place that can be a tough place to play,” Corn said. “I was pleased with the energy level that the guys came out with. It was probably the best offensive effort we’ve had all year long, even maybe better than the Missouri Western game. Defensively we weren’t where we need to be the first half, but the second half I thought our defense was much better.”
The Lions are back at home Wednesday night to play Pittsburg State.