The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 9, 2013

A Southern season of inconsistency

By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor

— This week’s MIAA Postseason Tournament provided a fitting finish to Missouri Southern’s men’s basketball season.

The Lions trailed by 14 points in Monday night’s play-in game at Emporia State before mounting a second-half comeback to nip the Hornets 68-66.

In Thursday afternoon’s quarterfinal game at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, the Lions trailed top-seeded Fort Hays State by four points with seven minutes remaining. But the Lions scored only two points the rest of the game and lost 79-60.

One week earlier at Pittsburg State, the Lions trailed by 17 points at halftime but roared back and had a possession to take the lead before falling 94-91.

“It was a season of inconsistency, there’s no doubt,” Lions coach Robert Corn said. “We had some big wins, we had some disappointing losses. We struggled all year long finding any type of consistency with our team.”

The Lions finished 13-15, going 9-5 in the first half of the season and 4-10 in the second half that began with a five-game losing streak.

During the second half the Lions beat regular-season co-champion Central Missouri 93-81, and the postseason victory at Emporia State was big for this season and future seasons.

“The reason Monday’s game at Emporia State was so big for us was we wanted our guys to have the experience of being (in Kansas City),” Corn said. “You can talk about it all you want, but you never know what it’s really like until you come up here and have that experience yourself.

“Obviously Jordan (Talbert) and Marquis (Addison) have had that experience the last two years. The guys who were returning from last year’s team have that experience. The new guys didn’t really know what it was all about, so it was so important for us to win Monday so all of our guys could be able to come up here and get the experience of playing in the quarterfinals of the MIAA Tournament.

“Hopefully that will be motivation and get you fired up to want to improve your game. We have some guys who if they improve their game — and you do that from a physical standpoint by getting in the weight room, by taking care of your body better, by eating right — then we have a chance to make a jump next year. We certainly can’t stay status quo. We have to make some changes and it starts from within.”

Addison, 6-foot-4 junior guard, ranked among the conference scoring leaders all season, finishing with a 17.4 average. He averaged 18.4 in league play.

Talbert, 6-5 junior forward, averaged 12.9 points and 7.6 rebounds. He led the conference in offensive rebounds, and he ranked among the top 25 nationally in blocked shots (2.2 per game). His seven blocked shots Thursday against Fort Hays State were the most by a Lion in a regulation game. The school record of nine blocks by Chris Tucker was set in a double overtime game against Pittsburg State.

“Marquis and Jordan obviously, we knew pretty much what we were going to get every time out,” Corn said. “Outside of that, we didn’t know. It was a crapshoot. That’s what is frustrating is you would love for some of those other players to step up. We struggled all year long trying to find a No. 3 scorer, and we never did find him. You have to have a third guy to step up to where you know what you’re going to get.”

Sophomore point guard R.J. Leverette is the only other player who started all 28 games. His 6.6 average was fourth on the team. Sophomore forward Stephen Atkinson started half of the games and averaged 8.1.

While the Lions don’t have a senior on the roster, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any recruiting.

“We have some holes to fill,” Corn said. “We weren’t a physical team this year. That’s one thing, we’ve always been fairly physical. We have to bring some guys in who have MIAA bodies to match the physicality we’re going to play against every night.”

“We definitely have high expectations like we always do,” Addison said after Thursday’s game. “We love to win, and this year is unacceptable in our program and the tradition that we have. Next year we have a nucleus coming back — actually everybody — and we’re ready. It’s a matter of putting in the work in the offseason and be ready for the preseason and take care of business when we get into next year.”