WEST PLAINS, Mo. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team opened the 2011-12 campaign this past weekend with two wins in the Grizzly Tip-Off Classic tournament at the West Plains Civic Center.
Friday, the Grizzlies defeated Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO) of Miami 58-37, and Saturday, they downed Southwestern Illinois College (SWIC) of Belleville 73-51. In other games, SWIC defeated Arkansas Baptist College of Little Rock 68-43 Friday, and Saturday, NEO took the measure of Arkansas Baptist 70-54.
All-tournament team awards were handed out following the final game Saturday, and Grizzly sophomore Gage Wooten was named tournament MVP. He had a total of 42 points and 14 rebounds for the weekend. Fellow sophomore Farbod Farman also was named to the all-tournament team. He had 20 points and 14 rebounds. Other recipients included SWIC’s Tony Bradley, NEO’s Cesar Mapeli and Arkansas Baptist’s London Carter.
The Grizzlies showed very promising signs in their first two outings. Against NEO, they hit 25 of 54 shots from the field for 43 percent, five of 18 shots from 3-point range for 28 percent and seven of 11 attempts from the free throw line for 64 percent. They also collected 18 offensive rebounds.
“The glaring statistic is the 18 offensive rebounds we collected in that game,” Walker said. “That was the difference, especially when NEO went to a zone in the first half. We didn’t shoot a great percentage from the outside, but we collected 51 percent of our missed shots, including free throws. We were happy with that kind of effort on the boards.”
The Grizzlies had a 35-21 lead at halftime and kept pace through the rest of the game. “We played pretty well defensively once we got past the first 10 minutes of the game,” Walker said. “In the last 11:42 of the first half, they only scored 6 points. We were able to put some stops together and build the lead heading into halftime. We also were able to hold them to only 16 points and 29 percent from the field in the second half.
“In the same way that our offensive rebounding was an advantage for our team, the fact that they collected only eight offensive rebounds for the game was equally important,” he added. Wooten had five defensive rebounds, and sophomores Marin Petric, Nathane Simniok and Farman each had four.
Wooten led the way statistically for the Grizzlies, scoring 18 points and grabbing eight rebounds, including three off the offensive glass. Simniok and Petric followed with 9 points each, and Farman had 8. Simniok had 10 rebounds, including six offensive; Petric five; and Farman eight, including four offensive. NEO was led by Mapeli with 11 points.
“It was a great start to the season,” Walker said. “NEO has a lot of nice pieces of the puzzle, and they are well coached. As they get everything figured out as a team, they will continue to get better.”
The Grizzlies found themselves in a tougher fight Saturday against SWIC’s Blue Storm. Still, they were more effective offensively, hitting 24 of 46 shots from the field for 52 percent, compared to SWIC’s 14 of 30 shots for 47 percent. The Grizzlies also hit three of 14 3-point shots for 21 percent and 22 of 30 free throws for 73 percent. They also had 10 offensive rebounds.
“Our focus in the second game was simply that it was going to be a 40-minute fight and the tougher team was going to win,” Walker said. “With as many freshmen as we have, we made it clear that we could build on the day before, but we couldn’t live there. We had to understand that it was going to take a better effort to come out ahead on the second night.
“SWIC was definitely the tougher of the two teams to prepare for simply because they run so many different set plays,” he continued. “In about six weeks, this win will be even bigger than it is today. They (SWIC) are going to continue to get better and better.”
The game started out just as tough as Walker expected. The teams stayed close until the end of the first half when the Grizzlies started building a small lead. By the end of the half, the Grizzlies were up 35-21.
“We handled their pressure, and with all of the trapping and pressing, they did pretty well. We had a few careless turnovers, but not too many. In reality, our defense was the difference, even with only one day to prepare for them. They had 17 turnovers, and they didn’t have any looks that weren’t contested. We were patient against their defense, and we held them to only one shot most of the time,” Walker said.
“From our last basket of the first half through our first 19 points of the second half, we held them to six points,” he continued. “We have to give them credit, though. They were a team that wouldn’t quit. Our defense bothered them quite a bit, which is a tribute to our team, since they guarded sets all night and had to be in perfect position most of the time.”
Wooten once again led the team statistically with 24 points and six rebounds. Farman had 12 points and six rebounds, and Petric had 10 points and six rebounds. SWIC was led by Tony Bradley with 18 points and David Weigmann with 12.
“I’m proud of our rebounding effort, especially against a team that had more size than we did. Eighteen offensive rebounds the night before might have skewed how impressive the 10 offensive rebounds we collected against SWIC were,” Walker said. “We also shared the basketball very well, with 18 of our 24 baskets coming off an assist.”
Walker said he was happy for Wooten and Farman’s awards, but he pointed out they have a lot to do with the team, as well. “I asked both of them in the locker room after the game how many times either one of them brought the ball up the floor. The answer was none for Farbod and once for Gage in two days. The point was that someone had to pass them the ball in a position to score. They understood that, and their teammates understood that, as well,” the coach said.
The Grizzlies will return to the court at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, when they host Independence (Kan.) Community College at the West Plains Civic Center.
“All in all, (this past weekend) was a great way to start the season, but again, we can build on the past, we just can’t live there,” Walker added. “Independence will be tougher still, and we head on the road for the first time after our game Tuesday. We cannot be satisfied with where we are at, but we’ve had a nice start.”
For more information about the Grizzly Basketball program, visit the team’s website at http://www.wp.missouristate.edu/grizzly/bb.htm or call the Grizzly Basketball office at 417-255-7993.
ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM awards were handed out following the final game of the Grizzly Tip-Off Basketball Classic Saturday evening at the West Plains Civic Center. From left are tournament MVP Gage Wooten of Missouri State University-West Plains, all-tournament honoree Farbod Farman of Missouri State-West Plains, Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Yancey Walker, and all-tournament honoree Tony Bradley of Southwestern Illinois College. Also named to the all-tournament team were Cesar Mapeli of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, and London Carter of Arkansas Baptist College. (Missouri State-West Plains Photos)