By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
Missouri Southern, just as it did seven years ago in the same arena, mounted a huge second-half comeback.
But this time, Pittsburg State converted key plays down the stretch and held off the Lions 94-91 Wednesday night before 2,177 emotionally drained fans at John Lance Arena.
The Gorillas (16-9, 9-8 MIAA) owned a 49-32 halftime advantage after shooting 50 percent from the field and dominating the rebounds 25-12.
“I thought we played really well first half,” PSU coach Kevin Muff said. “Focused defensively, I thought we were zoned in on how we needed to guard them. Then they showed the second half how really good they are offensively.”
The Lions (12-13, 7-10) ran off eight unanswered points in the first two minutes of the second half to cut the deficit to nine. The Gorillas regained a 12-point lead before the Lions pulled within 87-86 on Jordan Talbert’s putback with 57 seconds left.
A.J. Adams, who finished with 26 points, hit a 10-footer with 25 seconds left, but Marquis Addison made two free throws five seconds later.
Porter, the Gorillas’ freshman guard, drove the length of the floor and made an acrobatic left-handed layup as he was fouled. He added the free throw for a 92-88 lead with 15 seconds left.
“You don’t draw that up,” said. “Kids like that who are winners and come from programs that are winners, they want the ball in their hands at the end of the game and find a way to get it done.”
“We were supposed to foul him as soon as they passed out of the trap,” Lions coach Robert Corn said. “Our plan was to foul whoever got the ball, and why we didn’t foul, I don’t know. Then you definitely don’t want to foul when he’s to the basket and give him an opportunity to make the 2-plus-1.”
Missouri Southern’s Cameron Cornelius hit a 3 from the right corner with 8.9 seconds left, and the Lions had a chance to take the lead after Jake Bullard missed two free throws with 6.9 seconds to go.
Talbert got the rebound and passed to Addison. Addison never had good control of the ball and lost it while attempting to get between two Gorilla defenders, and Denton Hays came up with the ball.
“We were going to run one of our (late-game situation) plays but we didn’t get to do it because he missed the free throw,” Addison said. “I got doubled, had my head down and lost the ball. I never really got full control of it … and turned it over.”
“We had the guy with the basketball we wanted,” Corn said. “Marquis’ will to win this game is what carried us and got us back in the ball game. He’s our best player in that situation.”
Hays was fouled — the officials put 0.9 seconds on the clock after going to the review monitor – and he made both free throws – the second off the backboard as he attempted to miss it. Cornelius caught a pass near the Lions’ bench, but his shot went off the top of the backboard.
Addison tallied 29 points — 19 in the second half — to pace the Lions. Talbert and R.J. Leverette added 16 and 15, respectively.
Joining Adams in double figures for the Gorillas were Porter with 19, Marky Nolen and Rico Pierrevilus with 16 apiece and Bullard with 10.
The Lions shot 54 percent (15-of-28, including 8-of-12 from beyond the arc) in the second half after shooting 37 percent in the first half.
“We dug ourselves a pretty huge hole,” Talbert said. “We fought in the second half, just couldn’t finish it out. Once we got the nerves out … we started playing better basketball.”
“If we played with the same sense of urgency in the first half like we did the second half, then the outcome is probably different,” Corn said. “We knew it was going to be a physical game. We knew Pitt State was going to come out and be aggressive and we didn’t do a good job of matching that. They were definitely the tougher team and quicker to every loose ball and did whatever they wanted the first half.
“The second half I was proud of the way our guys came back and competed and gave ourselves a chance to win the ball game. We just didn’t get it done.”