WEST PLAINS, Mo. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team continued its winning streak Tuesday evening when it defeated the Northwest Mississippi Community College Rangers of Senatobia 94-86.
The victory brings the Grizzlies’ season record to 11-0, their best start since the 2009-10 campaign. While the streak may be exciting for fans, Head Coach Chris Popp is keeping it in perspective.
WILL FACE NO. 6 TEAM FRIDAY
“We’ve still got a long way to go,” he said. “We’re looking at the No. 6 team in the nation on Friday, and they’re coming off their best performance of the year.”
That team is the Indian Hills Community College Warriors, who defeated No. 8 Moberly Area Community College, a Region 16 foe of the Grizzlies, 92-60 at Moberly on Nov. 25.
The Grizzlies will face the 8-0 Warriors on their home court in Ottumwa, Iowa, at 7 p.m. Friday as part of the Cambridge Investments Classic.
“They’re long, athletic and talented, and they’re going to press and play chaotic,” Popp warned. “The good thing is we’ve seen a lot of that already this year.”
Including from the Rangers Tuesday night. “Northwest Mississippi was tough. They have a couple of really good guards who played well. We got up 18 points in the second half, but it never felt safe. They are very aggressive, and I knew they weren’t going to stop.”
The Rangers, in fact, jumped out to a quick 5-2 lead in the first half, but the Grizzlies then went on a 17-3 run that allowed them to go into the halftime break with a fairly comfortable 47-33 lead.
They extended that lead to 18 early in the second half, but the Rangers battled back to pull within 5 with their defensive pressure and an offensive spurt from guard Tremont Robinson, who scored 15 of his 17 points for the game in its last 10 minutes.
“Down the stretch, they did a good job of taking the ball out of Ricky’s (Torres) hands, but Radshad Davis stepped up and did a great job handling their pressure for us,” Popp said. “They pressed and gained momentum through that pressure, and Radshad really calmed us down.”
Davis, a redshirt freshman guard from Nassau, Bahamas, had 16 points, 10 rebounds and a team-leading seven assists for the evening. He hit six of 10 free throw attempts, several of which came at crucial moments of the game.
Torres, the Grizzlies’ starting sophomore point guard from Pinellas Park, Florida, paced the team on the scoreboard with 31 points, hitting five of eight 3-pointers along the way. “Ricky’s shooting it well right now. He’s worked at it, and it’s paying off,” the coach said.
Popp also praised sophomore forward Yannis Mendy of Metting, France, for getting the Grizzlies off to a good start. “He came out of the gates strong,” the coach said, pointing out he went eight for 10 from the floor for the night and recorded a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Freshman forward Burone Edwards of San Antonio, Texas, also had a note-worthy outing, scoring 9 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out three assists.
“Burone had to play long stretches and was solid. When Yannis and Dontell (Brown) got into foul trouble in the first half, he didn’t get much of a break, but he toughed it out. Having him on the floor makes a difference for us defensively,” Popp said. “He’s going to continue to get better. People will be surprised how good he’s going to be.”
The coach also gave kudos to freshman guard Eric Lovett of Union City, Georgia, who used his 16 minutes on the court to score 9 points. “He came off the bench and gave us great minutes,” Popp said.
Despite the Rangers’ press, the Grizzlies showed good offensive efficiency for the game, hitting 58.3 percent of their shots from the field, 31.6 percent of their shots from 3-point range, and 62.1 percent of their attempts from the free throw line.
“Our issues offensively came with the press, but we were efficient in half court and once it was broken,” Popp said.
Tuesday’s game provided good preparation for Friday’s contest against the Warriors, Popp said.
“Any time you can play a good team, especially a team that is as tough and aggressive as Northwest Mississippi is, you’re going to get better. We scheduled tough for a reason – to be our best and hopefully prepare us for success late in the year,” he explained.
“Indian Hills will be another one of those games. It is a huge challenge for us to go up there in a hostile environment against the sixth ranked team in the country,” he added.
The Grizzlies’ other game at the Cambridge Investment Classic will be against the junior varsity squad from William Penn University in Oskaloosa, Iowa, at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
For complete statistics of the Grizzlies’ games this season, visit http://stats.njcaa.org/sports/mbkb/2017-18/div1/teams/missouristateuniversitywestplains.
For more information about the Grizzly Basketball program, visit the team’s website or call 417-255-7991.
Stay up to date with Grizzly Athletics and Grizzly Booster Club news by signing up for text alerts at http://remind.com/join/wpgrizz or text “@WPGrizz to 81010.