By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
EDMOND, Okla. —
Missouri Southern popped in three 3-point goals for a 9-2 lead after just over three minutes.
But Lions’ early shooting display didn’t play to their advantage over the course of 40 minutes.
The Lions never established a consistent inside game and dropped their season finale to Central Oklahoma 76-65 at Hamilton Field House.
Despite the loss, the Lions (12-14, 7-11 MIAA) will be the ninth seed in the MIAA Postseason Tournament. They travel to Emporia on Monday night for a play-in game against the eighth-seeded Hornets, who lost 82-55 Saturday afternoon at Pittsburg State.
Josh Gibbs’ 17 points led four players in double figures for the Bronchos (13-13, 11-7). Spencer Smith sank 12-of-12 free throws while scoring 16, Jamell Cormier had 11 free throws among his 15 points, and June Carter had 12 points.
The Bronchos went 31-of-39 at the foul line — 24-of-29 in the second half — compared to the Lions’ 16-of-22. The Lions were 33-of-50 from the line in Monday night’s 85-77 home victory over UCO.
Reserve guard Matt Everson scored a career-high 17 points for Missouri Southern. Everson, 6-foot-3 junior from Madison, Wis., made 3-of-4 shots both inside and outside the 3-point arc and 2-of-2 free throws. He also had five rebounds and three assists in 25 minutes.
“I came out and tried to attack, tried to play a better game than last time,” Everson said. “I wanted to come out and play strong, try to get my teammates open and try to get to the rim.”
“Matt was one of the few guy who did a nice job attacking the zone,” Lions coach Robert Corn said
“I thought he played aggressive and took things to the basket, got inside the zone and he finished plays.”
Jordan Talbert made 4-of-6 field goals and all five free throws for 13 points. He also grabbed a game-high nine rebounds as the teams battled to a 37-37 standoff on the boards. Austin Wright also reached double figures with 12.
Marquis Addison, the Lions’ season scoring leader, played only 18 minutes because of foul trouble and had five points before fouling out with 7:22 remaining.
Blaine Miller hit a 3 from each corner and Cameron Cornelius connected from the right wing to give the Lions a 9-2 advantage. At times the Lions fell in love with the 3-point shot, and they ended with a season-high 27 3-point attempts, making nine. They were 11-of-26 on 2-point shots.
“If we had gotten those (early) 3s after getting the ball inside and kicking it out, that’s one thing,” Corn said. “But we didn’t do that. We got them by just moving the ball around the outside and shooting it. That’s not going to get us where we want to be over the course of 40 minutes.
“You have to make sure you keep attacking the basket. Every timeout, we kept telling the guys to get the ball inside, and it wasn’t that it wasn’t open. It was open on the inside and we just did a poor job of seeing it.”
Everson and Wright combined for nine straight points to give the Lions their biggest lead, 18-10 with 11:50 left in the first half. The Bronchos tied the game with eight points in less than a minute and later scored the first eight points of the second half to open a 42-30 lead with 17:20 left.
The Lions pulled within 53-49 on two Addison free throws with 8:46 left, but the Lions didn’t make a field goal for the next four minutes and the Bronchos built a 63-50 lead with 4:30 to play.
“We battled back and got within six in the second half, then we missed three straight layups,” Corn said. “They were not wide-open layups but they were shots that a good team finishes. … We’ve done that all year. We’ve battled back and put ourselves in position to make a run, then all of a sudden we self-destruct, whether it’s a turnover or a missed layup. And when we did that, it seemed like they would get something in transition.”
The Bronchos shot only 35 percent (20-of-58), but they had a 23-17 advantage in points off turnovers in addition to plus-15 at the foul line. The Lions committed 21 turnovers, nine more than UCO.