By Jim Henry

jhenry@joplinglobe.com

Missouri Southern men’s basketball coach Robert Corn isn’t fooled by Northwest Missouri State’s 2-7 MIAA record.

“They got off to a tough start,” he said. “They lost two or three games they had an opportunity to win but things didn’t go their way, and it snowballed from there.

“It looks like they are starting to regroup. They beat Truman, they beat Central Missouri, then they lost on the road to Southwest Baptist, which a lot of us have done. They are playing much better now than they did early, and any time they play at home, they are awfully good.”

The Lions battle the Bearcats at 7:30 tonight at Bearcat Arena where they Lions have won just twice in their last 15 visits. But last year the Lions posted an 81-77 road victory.

Missouri Southern (15-4, 5-4 MIAA) has lost its last two games — 67-59 at home to Fort Hays State and 74-64 at Nebraska-Omaha.

“We have to take care of the basketball. We can’t have a lot of turnovers,” Corn said. “Hopefully our defense will be solid and create turnovers. It’s very important we win the turnover battle and get scoring opportunities out of our defense. Hopefully we can score some easy baskets and get our halfcourt offense going.

“We have to do a better job in our halfcourt execution and finishing plays. The Washburn game we shot the 3 extremely well (10-of-19). Since then we’ve struggled the last two games.”

The Lions are shooting 32 percent from 3-point range for the season. They’ve hit 37 percent from beyond the arc in their 15 victories but just 17 percent (12-of-70) in their four losses.”

Forward Vincent Ateba and guard Skyler Bowlin pace the Lions at 13 points per game. The Lions are hitting 47 percent from the floor and 72 percent from the foul line while averaging 76.2 points, eight more than their opponents.

Northwest Missouri (7-9 overall) is led by the 1-2 punch of 6-foot 9, 200-pound senior Hunter Henry (17.6 points and a league-high 9.4 rebounds) and 6-4 sophomore forward Elijah Allen (11.8 points).

Henry has averaged 14.7 points and 8.3 rebounds in six games against the Lions. He’s scored at least 20 in three of the last four games against MSSU, and he’s had at least 10 rebounds in four of six games.

Allen has averaged 15.3 points since he moved into the starting lineup nine games ago. During that span, he and Henry have scored more than half of the Bearcats’ points (310 of 618).

“Hunter Henry was the MVP of this league two years ago. He’s a force to be reckoned with,” Corn said. “(Mike) Larsen is a solid guard, an experienced guard. They have two very good athletes on the wing. They are not overly big, but they have good athletic ability.”

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