COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team suffered its first loss of the season this past weekend at the Iowa Western Community College Reiver Classic in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
The Grizzlies (3-1) fell to the hosting Reivers, ranked 20th in the nation in the current National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I men’s basketball poll, in a hard-fought 75-69 contest Saturday at Kanesville Arena. On Friday, the Grizzlies defeated Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) 59-49 in the tournament’s first round.
“There’s no such thing as a moral victory; I want to establish that first,” Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Yancey Walker said of Saturday’s loss. “Our team had the chance to roll over and quit a few times in this game, but we responded each time with a run of our own. We took a very talented team to the brink on their home floor, but we must get better at finishing our good defensive possessions by attacking the rebound. We scored enough points, we just didn’t get as many stops as we needed.”
The Grizzlies fell behind in the first half, 42-34, and never could quite come back from the deficit, despite keeping pace with the Reivers in nearly every statistical category. The Grizzlies shot 24 of 64 from the field for 38 percent, two of 12 from 3-point range for 17 percent and 19 of 25 from the free throw line for 76 percent in the game. Sophomore forward Kris Frazier led the Grizzlies’ offensive charge, hitting all four of his field goals and four of his five free throws to score 12 points.
He was followed by sophomore forward Keaton Jackson and freshman guard Devaugntah Williams, each with 10 points. Jackson was three of nine from the field and a perfect four for four from the free throw line. Williams hit four of his 13 field goal attempts and both of his free throws.
The Grizzlies also had 34 rebounds (15 offensive), nine assists, 10 turnovers, seven blocks and five steals. Jackson led the Grizzlies on the boards with seven grabs, including four off the offensive glass.
The Rievers were led by JR Lyle with 19 points, Daouda Soumaoro 15, Devin Brooks 14 and Tavian Pomlee 12. The Reivers shot 24 of 65 from the field for 37 percent, eight of 26 from 3-point range for 31 percent and 19 of 25 from the charity stripe for 76 percent. They had 40 rebounds (19 offensive), 15 assists, 12 turnovers, six blocks and four steals.
“We simply didn’t get enough defensive stops to win the game,” Walker said. “And really, we made them take the contested shot most of the time. We just didn’t finish the possessions with a rebound. The field goals were identical, the free throws were identical, but they made more threes than we did, and most of those came off of a missed defensive assignment or an offensive rebound.”
Walker said the win over Des Moines is quite a coup for the Grizzlies, pointing out this Division II powerhouse was one of two teams to defeat the Grizzlies during their record-breaking season in 2010-2011. “First of all, I want to say how hard it is to beat DMACC. Coach McGinn always has his team prepared. They are always physical, and they execute,” Walker said.
“Coming into the game, we knew that we had to put an emphasis on defense and rebounding. They were averaging 78 points per game and shooting 58 percent from the field and 31 percent from the three. While we held them to 11 percent below their average from the field overall, we didn’t do as well as we would have liked. We did do a pretty good job of contesting and rushing their threes, but we made some mistakes inside the 3-point line that allowed them some easy baskets,” he said.
In the contest, the Grizzlies shot 18 of 47 from the field for 38 percent, six of 12 from 3-point range for 50 percent, and 17 of 22 from the free throw line for 77 percent. They had 36 rebounds (12 offensive), four assists, 17 turnovers, five blocks and six steals.
“We weren’t as high percentage as we need to be,” the coach said. “We had too many turnovers again, and we only made 12 2-point field goals for the game. We need to get our shooting percentage above 40 and our turnovers down between 10 and 12. But, I was proud of how well we shot from the three and the free throw line. I have told our team that if we take good shots, we’ll live with them, and we have done a pretty good job of that so far.”
The Grizzlies were led on the scoreboard by freshman guard Arroyo Edwards with 12 points, followed by Jackson with 11, Williams 10 and freshman guard Isiah Rogers with 10. Jackson led the team in rebounds with 12, including four off the offensive glass. He also had two blocks.
“I don’t like to point out individuals very often, but Keaton Jackson was tremendous for us,” Walker said. “He was patient in the post, he had four offensive rebounds, and he didn’t get to rest very much during the game. He made a very key jumper from 15 feet in a huge possession late in the game.
“Isiah made an equally important elbow jumper late in the shot clock with under five minutes remaining to make a three possession game,” the coach added. “(Freshman guard) Jon Tshibuy didn’t stuff the stat sheet, but he made some big baskets late and made his free throws late.”
DMACC hit 19 of 57 shots from the field for 40 percent, two of 11 from 3-point range for 18 percent and nine of 18 from the free throw line for 50 percent. The team also had 28 rebounds (nine offensive), six assists, 10 turnovers, two blocks and six steals.
“The difference in this game was our outside shooting and our free throw shooting,” Walker said. “It is always the goal to make more free throws than our opponent shoots. We made 17 and they shot 18, so we were close. We were able to accomplish that by being aggressive to the rim and attacking in the post. We have to continue to do that if we want to be successful.”
The Grizzlies return to the road later this week to compete for the first time in program history in the Hampton Inn Classic hosted by Otero Junior College in La Junta, Colo. They are scheduled to play the host team Friday, Nov. 16, and Lamar (Colo.) Community College Saturday, Nov. 17.
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.