The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

March 7, 2014

MSSU set for rematch against Lopers

Three months ago Missouri Southern tipped off its MIAA schedule with a 99-79 victory over Nebraska-Kearney at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

Ironically, the Lions open the postseason with another game against UNK tonight in the MIAA Postseason Tournament in Kansas City, but this is a different group of Lopers.

Ethan Brozek, 6-foot-7 sophomore, joined the team after the first semester and is averaging 16.4 points. He and 6-6 sophomore Connor Beranek (17.4 ppg) form the Lopers’ “Killer Bs.”

Senior forward Mike Dentlinger adds another 16.2 points, and junior guard Davion Pearson contributes 10.6 for the Lopers, who average 81.1 points and allow 80.6. Beranek tallied 26 points and Pearson 21 for UNK against the Lions.

“No. 1, they are really balanced,” Lions coach Robert Corn said. “They are probably one of the best interior passing teams we will face all year. They do a great job of getting the ball inside, cutting off him and making bounce passes on the interior.

“You’re sitting there thinking you are in good shape defensively, then all of a sudden they are laying it up. Last year when we played them we had a hard time guarding them because of their passing ability.”

The Lions jumped out to a 22-6 lead in the first 81⁄2 minutes against the Lopers. Slim Magee, 6-foot-11, flirted with a triple-double, collecting 27 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots.

Marquis Addison (21), Cameron Cornelius (16) and Jordan Talbert (12) also reached double figures for the Lions, who shot 60 percent (36-of-60) to the Lopers’ 42 percent (25-of-60). The Lions also dominated the rebounding 42-25.

“We have to make sure we get the tempo we want,” Corn said. “Hopefully we can get some stops defensively and get some things going in transition. In a game like this, possessions are crucial, so you want to keep your turnovers down and rebound. We have to stay disciplined on the defensive end and not be caught ball watching. If we are ball watching on defense, they will get layups on us.”

The Lions (21-5) notched their ninth 20-win season under Corn, who is retiring this season after 25 years. He was named MIAA Coach of the Year this week for the fourth time in his career.

“I’m fortunate to have two assistant coaches who work hard and players who have bought in,” Corn said. “You look at it, last year we went 13-15. We added two players and now we’re 21-5. We have guys who have improved their games, and getting the point guard (Lane Barlow) who can get in the lane, take the bump and finish the play and someone who can change the game defensively (Slim Magee) have made a big difference for us.”

The Lions moved up to third place in this week’s Central Region ranking behind Central Missouri and Minnesota State-Mankato. The region’s eight representatives in the NCAA Tournament will be announced Sunday night.

 “I told the team (Tuesday) in practice we’ve had a really good year,” Corn said. “Once March comes we have a chance to have a great year. The MIAA Tournament will dictate what we do past that. As long as you win, you keep playing.

“In March you hope your guys are still excited about playing rather than deciding where they want to go on spring break. Our guys are still excited about playing.”

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