The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

December 23, 2012

Atkinson: Quick start for Pitt State hoops

We're just 10 games into the season, and a mere two of them have been a part of the rugged MIAA schedule, but it appears that the Pittsburg State Gorillas could have a salty team this year.
How salty?
Let's go the comparative score route just for the heck of it.
Pitt State beat host Dixie State on Wednesday at the Las Vegas Challenge. Dixie State beat Chaminade 87-78 on Dec. 3. Chaminade beat the Texas Longhorns 86-73 on Nov. 19. Texas -- on the same night PSU beat Dixie State -- knocked off No. 23 North Carolina 85-67 in Austin.
So connect the dots -- and throw in the fact that Dixie State had also taken UNLV to overtime on the road -- and Pitt State should be ranked in the NCAA Division I polls, right?
OK, that's ridiculous. But it's a fun, roundabout way to get to this point: The Pittsburg State Gorillas have been playing some good basketball so far.
Pitt State's lone loss came to Newman on Nov. 20 at home. But that Newman team went on to win its first nine games and beat every other Kansas MIAA team including Washburn, which was ranked second in the nation at the time.
The Gorillas seem to have a well-balanced team, with four players averaging double figures in scoring. Freshman Kaleb Porter is scoring 17.8 points a game while Courtney Ingram, A.J. Adams and JaVon McGee all average between  10.3 and 11.7 points per game.
Perhaps most importantly, the Gorillas average 33 foul shots per game -- a staple of their success.
Pitt State coach Kevin Muff told me earlier this season that as long as his Gorillas are attacking the basket and getting to the foul line, they'll be tough to beat.
That's definitely been the case so far.

Quick starts
At the same time, you only need to look into the last 10 years to know that a good start isn't necessarily a precursor to a good season for Pitt State.
The Gorillas started the 2007-08 season 9-0 before going 9-10 the rest of the way. They had the same 9-10 finish after starting 9-3 a year earlier.
In both 2002 and 2003 the Gorillas started the season 8-1. And in both years they went 8-11 down the stretch to finish 16-12.
The lone exception would be the 2004-05 season, when Pitt State started 9-0 and ended up with a  23-win season and a trip to the round of 32 in the national tournament.
Only time will tell which side this year's team will fall on.

Homecoming foe?
The official schedule has yet to be released and Pitt State hasn't confirmed it, but it looks like the Gorillas might be getting a high-profile opponent to come to Carnie Smith Stadium for homecoming.
The schedule of events page for 2013 homecoming at on Pitt State's main website lists a 2 p.m. game against Abilene Christian on Oct. 5.
ACU has been a perennial contender in NCAA Division II and is making the transition to Division I (FCS) and will join the Southland Conference.
It would be a high-risk, high-reward game for the Gorillas, who will be looking to bounce back from a playoffless 2012 season.
For the record, Pitt State's long-term football schedule lists Oct. 5 as an open date.

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