It’s the same scenario today when Missouri Southern closes its regular-season basketball slate this afternoon at Nebraska-Kearney.
The No. 23 Lions (22-6, 13-5 MIAA) sit in third place in the conference standings, one game behind Washburn. A Lions victory today plus a Washburn loss at home to Missouri Western would produce a second-place tie and give the Lions the No. 2 seed thanks to their victory over the Ichabods this season.
The Lions had a shot to catch Washburn on Thursday night after the Ichabods lost to Northwest Missouri, which completed an unblemished regular season. But a turnover and intentional foul with seven seconds left led to the Lions’ 89-84 loss at Fort Hays State.
“We didn’t have any energy,” Lions coach Jeff Boschee said on his postgame radio show. “We were too casual at times on offense, and it carried over to the defensive end.
“We have to play better on Saturday and do it with more energy, effort and just enthusiasm to be on the basketball floor. I don’t understand when you have to coach effort at this time of year, you have to look at yourself in the mirror. It’s the last thing we should have to coach.”
The Lopers (10-17, 5-13) are out of the postseason picture and have lost three of their last four games, most recently an 83-75 home setback to Pittsburg State two nights ago.
The Lions beat the Lopers 72-67 on Feb. 7 in Joplin in a game filled with momentum shifts. Missouri Southern jumped out to a 23-5 lead, only to see the Lopers rally to lead 43-42 at halftime. The Lions then overcame a nine-point deficit in the last 13 minutes to earn the victory.
Three Lions posted double-doubles — Kinzer Lambert with 20 points and 10 rebounds, Enis Memic with 19 and 15 and Elyjah Clark with 13 and 10. Season scoring leader Cam Martin did not play while recovering from an ankle sprain.
Kyle Juhl and A.J. Jackson scored 16 and 15 points, respectively, for the Lopers.
“We struggled with them the first time,” Boschee said. “We didn’t play well offensively, then the second half we were able to step up on the defensive end.
“They have bigger guys at the perimeter spots, which can pose problems for us with their ability to post up. We’re going to have to do a good job of keeping it out of the post and limit them to one shot and match the enthusiasm and passion they will have on Senior Day.”
Mo. Southern (22-6, 13-5 MIAA)
C Cam Martin, 6-9 so. 21.6
G Reggie Tharp, 6-0 jr. 9.6
G Braelon Walker, 6-0 jr. 10.5
G Kinzer Lambert, 6-4 jr. 15.3
G Elyjah Clark, 6-3 jr. 15.0
Neb.-Kearney (10-17, 5-13 MIAA)
F A.J. Jackson, 6-5 jr. 8.3
F W. Baker Margrath, 6-8 so. 6.7
F Kyle Juhl, 6-5 jr. 9.2
F Kanon Koster, 6-4 fr. 16.7
G Sam Morris, 6-5 so. 6.7
Tipoff: 4 p.m.
Site: Health and Sports Center, Kearney, Neb.
Coaches: Jeff Boschee, 5th year at MSSU (98-51). Kevin Lofton, 4th year at UNK (67-49).
Series: UNK leads 22-14 after the Lions’ 72-67 home victory on Feb. 7. the Lions are 2-14 on the road against the Lopers.
Radio: WMBH (1560 AM, 101.3 FM), KSEK (1340 AM, 107.9 FM), KXMS (88.7 FM), 3:45 p.m.