WEST PLAINS, Mo. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team picked up its second region win of the season Tuesday night, Jan. 29, when they defeated the Mineral Area College Cardinals of Park Hills, Mo., 60-48 at the West Plains Civic Center.
The Grizzlies are now 2-2 in Region 16 play and 15-9 overall. The Cardinals, who are 18-5 overall, fall to 3-2 in the region. At the top of the region standings are Moberly Area Community College, Moberly, Mo., and State Fair Community College, Sedalia, Mo., both of whom are 3-1 in region play. Three Rivers College in Poplar Bluff, Mo., is 0-5 in the region. The Grizzlies will face Moberly for the first time this season at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, in Moberly.
Despite the 12-point differential, Tuesday’s game was close throughout. It wasn’t until the last minute of the game that either team held a double digit lead.
“It seems like everyone of our games with Mineral Area comes down to one possession with two to four minutes left in the game,” Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Yancey Walker said. “One team either gets a crucial basket or a crucial stop that propels them to the win. At their place, we missed a three when we were down 4 points with a little over two minutes left. Here, we got the stop we needed when we were up 4 points with a little over two minutes left.”
From that point, the Grizzlies slowly extended their lead with good defensive effort, effective free throw shooting, big plays in transition and offensive rebounds. They reached the double-digit lead with a slam dunk by freshman forward Malik London about the one minute mark, then sophomore forward Keaton Jackson sealed the win with a dunk of his own on the next play.
“We did a lot better in the second half, especially late, of sharing the basketball. We only had four assists at halftime,” Walker said. “The second half also was probably our best half defensively all season. They made some big plays, but we executed our scouting report and rebounded very well. They were only able to get 21 percent of their missed shots, so there were no second chance opportunities. We also guarded their sets the way we were supposed to, and that was a sign of maturity.”
The first half, the Grizzlies built a 10-4 early lead before the Cardinals came back to take their own lead. The game continued to be close, with the teams knotted at 20 points a piece with eight minutes remaining. The Grizzlies and Cardinals continued to battle to the end of the period, with the Cardinals going in to halftime with a 31-30 advantage.
“Our first half defense wasn’t bad, but we gave up 6 points in transition, and that killed us,” Walker said.
Statistically, the Grizzlies shot 21 of 53 from the field for the game for 41.5 percent, four of 20 from 3-point range for 20 percent, and 12 of 18 from the free throw line for 66.7 percent. They also recorded 39 rebounds, nine of which were offensive; 14 assists, 10 of which came in the second half; 12 turnovers; and seven blocks.
Freshman guard Devaugntah Williams led the team in scoring with 16 points. He was followed by freshman guard Arroyo Edwards with 11 points, Jackson 10 and freshman guard Jon Tshibuy 10. Jackson recorded a double-double by adding a team leading 12 rebounds. Tshibuy led the team in assists with six.
Freshman forward Malik London also had a notable performance. He was perfect from the floor, connecting on all three of his shots, and he also had 10 rebounds and four blocks.
“I don’t like to single out one person, because everyone contributed in some way; however, I hope that everyone understands that, even though, Malik didn’t score in double figures, he made a huge impact on the game. He was perfect from the field, he had double digit rebounds, and he altered many more shots along with the four that he blocked,” Walker said.
The Cardinals hit 20 of 59 shots from the field for 33.9 percent, three of 14 3-point shots for 21.4 percent and five of nine free throws for 55.6 percent. They also had 33 rebounds, three assists and 10 turnovers. Leading scorers were D’Angelo Tucker with 15 points and Jay Raulston with 12. Raulston also had eight rebounds.
Walker praised the civic center crowd for its enthusiasm during the contest. “They did a great job tonight, as well,” he said.
With Tuesday’s win, Walker said the Grizzlies have given themselves a new chance in the region. “We need to go to Moberly on Saturday and play well. They are very good when they dictate tempo, so we need to be able to make plays similar to tonight’s and play aggressive defense while finishing with aggressive rebounds,” the coach said.
For more information about the Grizzly Basketball program, visit the team’s website at http://wp.missouristate.edu/grizzly/bb.htm or call the Grizzly Basketball office at 417-255-7993.