By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Without taking the floor, Missouri Southern has climbed into a first-place tie in the MIAA men’s basketball race.
Southwest Baptist knocked off league-leading Northwest Missouri State 91-77 Tuesday night in Bolivar, leaving the green and white Bearcats and Missouri Southern with 14-5 conference records. The Lions, up six spots to No. 10 in this week’s Division II poll, and No. 16 Bearcats collide at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Maryville for at least a share of the conference championship.
Central Missouri and Washburn can join Saturday’s MSSU-Northwest winner atop the league standings if the Mules and Ichabods win their last two games. Central Missouri plays tonight at Missouri Western and Saturday at home against Truman State while the Ichabods play tonight at rival Emporia State and Saturday at home against Lincoln.
While Northwest Missouri’s loss improves the Lions’ conference standing, it also actually hurts the Lions’ chances of earning the No. 1 seed for next week’s postseason tournament in Kansas City.
The Lions — if they beat Northwest Missouri — unofficially would hold the tiebreaker over both Central Missouri and Washburn if there is a two-team tie for first. But if the Lions, Central and Washburn all finish 15-5, then Washburn would be the No. 1 seed, the Lions No. 2 and the Mules No. 3. Washburn swept Central Missouri this season while the Lions split with both the Mules and Ichabods.
If Northwest Missouri beats the Lions and joins the Mules and Ichabods at 15-5, the tiebreaking procedure would go down to the battle for fifth place. Northwest swept Washburn but was swept by Central Missouri, and the Bearcats, Mules and Ichabods would be 1-1 against fourth-place Missouri Southern.
Fifth-place is a three-team battle among SBU (11-8 league record after an 0-5 start), Fort Hays State (10-8) and Pittsburg State (10-9).
Fort Hays State entertains the Gorillas tonight in PSU’s final conference game with the Tigers going for a season sweep.
Southwest Baptist has already split with the Gorillas and swept the Tigers. Season-ending games on Saturday have SBU at Missouri Western and Emporia State at Fort Hays State.
Pittsburg State women
The Gorillas (23-3, 17-2) lead Washburn (23-4, 16-2) by one-half game after their 59-45 road loss to the Lady Blues last Saturday. Pittsburg State is 11th in this week’s Division II poll, one spot ahead of Washburn.
Pittsburg State completes conference play tonight at Fort Hays State (11-7, 19-7). The Gorillas can clinch a tie for the league title with a victory tonight over the Tigers. The Gorillas can win the title outright with a victory plus a Washburn loss either tonight at rival and No. 22 Emporia State or Saturday at home against Lincoln.
The Gorillas haven’t won a conference title since they finished in a three-way tie with Central Missouri and Missouri-Rolla in 1996.