WEST PLAINS, Mo. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team turned in a record-breaking performance during its season-opening Holiday Inn Express Grizzly Tip-Off Classic tournament this past weekend at the West Plains Civic Center.
The Grizzlies, 2-0, held Labette Community College of Parsons, Kan., to just 9 points in the first half of Saturday’s game, setting a new team record for fewest points allowed in a half. The previous record was 12 points against Missouri Baptist University’s junior varsity squad on Nov. 13, 2004. Ultimately, the Grizzlies held the Cardinals just 36 points for the game and won 61-36 in the tournament’s final game.
“I’m proud of these young men to have set a defensive record in everyone except Keaton’s (Jackson) second game,” Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Yancey Walker said. “It’s also satisfying that the old record was set against a JV team and this one was set against an NJCAA Division I team with a young man committed to the University of Oklahoma. I hope this is not the last time this group of young men leaves its mark on our record book.”
Labette didn’t score its first points of the game until the 4:37 mark in the first half. “We came out and played a good half of defense,” Walker said. “We weren’t great on the offensive end, but our defense allowed us a little wiggle room. We had to ride Devaugntah Williams for a few possessions just to get some points on the board. We also survived some foul trouble in the first half, which was good to experience.”
Williams, a freshman guard, had 11 points in the game, as did fellow freshman guard Arroyo Edwards. Jonathan Tshibuy, another freshman guard, led the Grizzlies in scoring with 14.
“Labette has some very talented post players, but our post players rose to the challenge defensively. We practiced double teaming the post, just in case we needed it, but again, our posts rose to the occasion, so we never needed it,” the coach added.
Defense also played a key role in the Grizzlies’ 72-44 win Friday over Angelina College, Lufkin, Texas. After going into the halftime break tied at 27, the Grizzlies’ defense kicked in and held Angelina to just 17 points in the second half.
“We sputtered a bit offensively in the first half, and we didn’t really do that great of a job of playing our assignments defensively. We had a couple of opportunities to increase our lead in the first half, but we made some poor decisions that hampered those opportunities,” Walker said.
“In the second half, we made the adjustments we needed to make to build a nice lead coming out of halftime,” the coach added. “When we went into the locker room, our guys were talking about what we needed to do. That was a very good sign. We moved the ball better and attacked their defense in the second half, even when they changed defenses at the end of the shot clock. Jon Tshibuy and Isiah Rogers ended the game with 11 assists between them. At the media time out in the second half, we talked about how a good team would finish this game, and they did a great job of making plays on both ends down the stretch.”
Williams led the Grizzlies in scoring against Angelina with 12 points, followed by Rogers, a freshman guard, with 11, and sophomore forward Keaton Jackson, freshman forward Kris Frazier and freshman guard Desmond Buerge with 10 points each. Angelina was led by Thaddeus Fortune with 10 points and Andre Crear with 9.
Moberly Area Community College, Moberly, Mo., also won both of its games in the tournament. The Greyhounds defeated Labette 66-55 Friday and Angelina 88-74 Saturday.
The all-tournament team included Grizzlies Tshibuy and Williams and Greyhounds Mike Anderson and Evan Singletary. Grizzly freshman forward Malik London was named tournament MVP. London hit six of his seven attempts from the field, grabbed 15 rebounds (three offensive) and recorded two blocks for the tournament.
“I’m really happy for Malik,” Walker said. “He made a very consistent impact on each game. He shot 85 percent from the field and only had two turnovers total for both games. Even though he only had two blocks, he altered many other shots. He rebounded very well for the most part, and, except for a few possessions, if he didn’t get the rebound, his man didn’t, either.”
“We want to thank Holiday Inn Express for sponsoring this classic,” Walker said. “They do so much for us, and we always get so many compliments from the teams that stay there.”
Although the Grizzlies are pleased with their 2-0 start, Walker said they know they have a long way to go. “We had two good wins to start the season, but we need to stay hungry and keep working to get better and better each day. We understand that we have taken two steps on this journey, and we still have a lot of things to get better at,” the coach said.
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.