By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
Halftime leads are nothing new for the Pittsburg State Gorillas.
But holding on to those leads has proven to be a bit trickier than maybe it should be.
The Gorillas lost a 22-point lead to Southwest Baptist in a Feb. 9 loss and almost threw away a 19-point lead on Wednesday against Missouri Southern.
So on Saturday, after a solid first half gave the Gorillas an eight-point lead on Emporia State, Pitt State coach Kevin Muff changed things up.
“You notice we’ve had some problems coming out of the locker room lately,” Muff said. “So my approach today, I just ripped them. I wasn’t nice. Before I’d kind of go in and say ‘Hey good job. This looked good, we need kinda make some adjustments here.’ But I wasn’t satisfied today and I told them I wasn’t happy.”
It sure seemed to work.
The Gorillas outscored ESU by 19 in the second half and thumped the Hornets 82-55 on Senior Day at John Lance Arena.
Pitt State now hosts Truman State on Monday in the MIAA tournament.
“This group maybe gets a little complacent when they’re told they’re doing well,” Muff said. “They can give us more and I’m going to keep demanding more because this is it. And we want to go out knowing we did everything we could to be successful.”
After the Gorillas pushed their lead to 21 with 13:18 remaining the closest they let the Hornets get was 17 points on two occasions.
A far cry from their blow leads against SBU and MSSU.
“We mentioned that in the huddle,” Pitt State senior Rico Pierrevilus said. “We can’t let that happen. Once we have the lead we have to put our foot down to the end.”
Pitt State’s trio of freshmen came up big on Senior Day, specifically Kaleb Porter.
Porter, a 5-foot-11 guard from Tulsa, scored nine of Pitt State’s first 13 points and scored 15 of his game 20 points in the first half. He was 4-for-5 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes and 5-for-8 for the game.
“Kaleb started us off well,” Muff said. “If he doesn’t come to play early in the game I think the complexion of that game changes because he’s really the only offense we had early.”
Freshman Jake Bullard, from Vinita, Okla, added 10 points, including a breakaway dunk in Pitt State’s dominant second half while classmate Denton Hays was key defensively.
“I thought our freshmen did a good job,” Muff said. “Denton was solid defensively, Jake was good and Kaleb was good offensively. They did a good job and that helped our seniors.”
Senior Courtney Ingram scored 10 points for the Gorillas while classmates JaVon McGee and Pierrevilus each scored nine. Mark Nolen, also a senior, scored eight.
“For our seniors to go out like this is huge,” Muff said. “I’m very happen for them to go out with a win in the last regular season home game. It was very nice and they’re very deserving.”