The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


March 15, 2014

Missouri Southern wins No. 10 in a row, forces Central Missouri today in semifinals

MANKATO, Minn. — A tenacious defensive effort triggered Missouri Southern to an 80-69 win over Fort Hays State during the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II Central Region Tournament on Saturday at Bresnan Arena.

Missouri Southern (25-5) will play MIAA foe Central Missouri at 5 p.m. today in the regional semifinals. The Mules defeated Arkansas Tech 56-44 Saturday.

Senior guard Marquis Addison fired in a game-high 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds as the Lions avenged an earlier season 76-67 loss to Fort Hays and extended their winning streak to 10.

Three other Lions — Jordan Talbert (11), Lane Barlow (11) and Greg Renfroe (10) — chipped in double-digit efforts as MSSU shot 51.7 percent from the field.

“Our team as a whole is in the top 10 in the nation in field goal percentage,” said Addison, who made 9-of-13 shots. “I had a good feeling so I kept going with it. The environment is definitely different and some of us, including myself, had some jitters at the start. I felt we started to pick it up the last 10 minutes of the first half and made a little run. We did a great job of keeping that lead at halftime to keep the momentum.”

Fort Hays State (22-8) scored the game’s first six points — baskets from Dwayne Brunson and Craig Nicholson along with two free throws from Tomislav Gabric — before the Lions settled in and reeled off nine unanswered. Senior forward Talbert’s twisting putback got things rolling before Renfroe’s driving basket and 8-foot turnaround along with Barlow’s 3-pointer capped things.

Brunson, who led the Tigers with 21 points and eight boards, nailed a trio of medium-range jumpers in the middle stages of the opening half as Fort Hays took its final lead of the contest at 25-23 on James Fleming’s left-wing triple with 6:17 remaining. After Nicholson’s 8-foot runner tied things at 27, senior center Slim Magee’s follow-up basket sparked a half-ending 13-5 Lions’ run.

Nicholson’s top-of-the-key 3-pointer cut the deficit to 37-32, but Southern’s ability to race down the court resulted in sophomore guard Austin Wright’s left baseline 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“We knew coming in that it would be a difficult challenge for us,” Missouri Southern coach Robert Corn said. “I am really happy with the way our team responded. I thought defensively we made enough stops and got some things in transition to speed the game up a little bit. Offensively, we got into a really good rhythm and it kind of started with the transition baskets we were able to get.

“That led into getting some confidence in our half-court game. Everything was dictated by our defense. Their jump shooters got very few open looks at the basket. I thought early on they were getting every loose ball and then as we got into the rhythm we started getting our share. We play our best basketball when we’re utilizing 94 feet.”

Leading 49-42 nearly four minutes into the second half, the Lions delivered the knockout punch when Addison’s nine-point flurry — a pair of 3-pointers, a coast-to-coast drive off a turnover and foul shot — ignited an 11-0 run that produced a 60-42 advantage with 13 minutes to go. Renfroe’s two inside hoops and a pair of free throws kept things going before Addison’s free-throw line jumper made it 80-62 with 1:46 left.

Southern dominated the boards 40-22 with Magee pulling down 12 and Matt Everson getting six. Fort Hays State shot 48.2 percent from the field. Nicholson tallied 15 points and nine assists for the Tigers.

“It was a tough game for us,” Fort Hays State coach Mark Johnson said. “We got off to a good start, which we knew we needed. In the end I think what we got us was what we were concerned about going into the game. The size and athleticism of Southern was hard for us to handle ... They just killed us on the glass.”

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