The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

March 16, 2014

Despite late rally, Mules end Lions' 10-game win streak 94-84 in Central Regional semifinals

Central Missouri attacked the basket, picked up fouls, scored on layups and passed out to open shooters.

It’s a plan that worked twice in the regular season, and it worked again Sunday.

“I thought we did a good job early of pounding the ball inside,” Mules coach Kim Anderson said. “It worked the first two [regular season] games [against Missouri Southern].

“I’m not very smart. I’m going to go with what got us here,” he joked.

Central Missouri (26-5) withstood a late rally, ending Missouri Southern’s (25-6) season 94-84 in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Central Region men’s basketball tournament Sunday. Physical post play set the tone early, and the Lions had to play catch-up the rest of the way.

“It was definitely frustrating,” Lions senior Marquis Addison said. “I was disappointed that we were slow out of the gate, but we have nothing to hang our heads about.”

The game remained close early on, but Central Missouri, which made 9 of its first 12 shots, went on a 20-4 run. Center Dillon Deck had 15 points as the Mules’ lead grew to 25-11 at the midway point of the first half.

“Basketball is a game that’s dictated by matchups, and for whatever reason, we didn’t match up with Central Missouri this season,” said Lions coach Robert Corn, who is retiring after his 25th season of leading MSSU’s men’s basketball program. “They’re a physical team, and Deck has been a handful for us all year long. We had six losses, and three of them were to Central Missouri. Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to them.”

With center Slim Magee playing only 4 minutes due to three first-half fouls, Central Missouri continued to pound the ball inside, shooting 51.7 percent in the opening half and making 4-of-6 from 3-point range.

Southern couldn’t find the basket early, hitting just three of its first 13 shots, but made three straight 3-pointers to pull within 31-25 at the 5:15 mark, shooting 41.6 percent the rest of the half. However, the Mules, who had an 18-2 advantage on post points, pushed the lead back to 45-33 by halftime.

Missouri Southern looked ready to make a run early in the second half, but six turnovers in the first five minutes of the final period allowed the Mules to build the lead to 55-39. The Lions also committed six fouls in that span to help get Central Missouri to the free-throw line.

The margin was 23 with 10 minutes to play when the Lions made their final push. Addison scored 14 points, including two 3-pointers and a three-point play, as Missouri Southern cut the lead to 79-74 with 3:29 to go.

“We do this drill in practice all the time, down four points with two minutes to go,” Addison said. “I thought we could do it, but all night, [Central Missouri] responded.”

Deck hit a tough bank shot from in close, and the Mules converted enough free throws to hold on. Deck finished with 21 points on 9-13 shooting. Charles Hammork added 17. Central Missouri shot better than 50 percent in both halves and was 29-35 at the free-throw line.

Addison led the Lions with 28 points, 19 of those in the second half. Jordan Talbert had 16 points and 11 rebounds and Magee had 10 points in his 18 minutes.

“We had a great year,” Corn said. “Twenty-five wins, conference championship, ranked 19th in the country at the end. There were a lot of positives this season.”

Central Missouri plays in the Central Region championship game at 7 p.m. Tuesday against conference rival Northwest Missouri State.

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