OTTUMWA, Iowa – They say all good things must come to an end, but that doesn’t make the first loss of the season any easier to bear for the Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team.
That loss came Friday evening, Dec. 1, at the hands of the sixth ranked Indian Hills Community College Warriors (10-0), who defeated the Grizzlies 93-67 in the first night of the Cambridge Investment Research Classic at Ottumwa, Iowa. The Grizzlies are now 12-1.
“They’re definitely a top 10 team, especially the way they’re playing right now,” Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Chris Popp said.
The Grizzlies kept it close through much of the first half. The teams were tied six times and swapped leads another 10 before the Warriors extended their lead to 48-38 at halftime.
“We got into early foul trouble, which really hurt us,” Popp said. “Several key players, Yannis (Mendy), Radshad (Davis), Kie (Niekie Thomas), Dontell (Brown) and Burone Edwards all sat on the bench in foul trouble. When four starters and your first big off the bench can’t be on the floor, it changes the game. It particularly made an impact on the boards. Those are our primary rebounders. It is an area of the game we have been able to control. Indian Hills controlled it that night.”
At the half, 15 fouls had been called on the Grizzlies. For the game, they were whistled for 22, according to statistics.
The Grizzlies also didn’t do themselves any favors offensively, either, only hitting two of 15 attempts from 3-point range in the first half. For the game, they were six of 25.
“Open or not, we settled for too many quick perimeter shots,” Popp said. “You have to have the discipline to know when to take them and when to get it to the paint.”
The second half continued much as the first, with the Grizzlies staying in foul trouble and missing outside shots. For the game, they shot 38.3 percent from the field and 24 percent from the 3.
“Indian Hills did a great job of protecting the paint,” he added. “We talk all the time about how the game is won in the paint in all aspects, and that is where we lost the game. We missed a lot of open shots. They guarded the paint well, and we settled for a lot of jumpers and perimeter shots that didn’t fall that night.”
Sophomore point guard Ricky Torres lead all scorers with 18 points. “They did a good job taking the ball out of Ricky’s hands at times. We needed others to step up in those stretches,” the coach pointed out.
Other Grizzlies scoring in double figures were Davis, a redshirt freshman guard, with 13 points and Edwards, a freshman forward, with 10.
“Radshad is the guy we need to have on the court,” Popp said. “In just 16 minutes, he had 13 points, six rebounds and three assists. He keeps the game simple and is a great rebounder from the wing.”
The Warriors had five players in double figures.
REMATCH IN JANUARY
Friday’s game won’t be the last time these two teams meet. They’ll face off again Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. at the West Plains Civic Center arena.
“I’m excited about seeing them again in a month-and-a-half,” Popp said. “I’m fired up to play them again, and I think our guys will be, too.”
WILLIAM PENN JV
The Grizzlies bounced back from Friday’s loss and closed out the tournament strong Saturday, Dec. 3, with a 132-92 win over the junior varsity squad from William Penn University in Oskaloosa, Iowa.
“There are several things we’ve had some slippage with as we have been able to win without correcting them. They were exposed against Indian Hills. We came out Saturday and focused on those things that we needed to do to be better,” Popp said. “I was happy with Saturday’s performance, not because of the final score, but because our guys bought into the need to get better.”
Nearly every Grizzly scored points against William Penn, with seven scoring in double figures. They included Davis with 22, freshman guard Eric Lovett 18, Torres 17, Thomas and Brown 15 apiece, and Mendy and freshman guard Mykyta Drugachonok each with 11.
IWCC REMATCH SATURDAY
The Grizzlies return home this week to host Life Prep from Wichita, Kansas, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, and the Holiday Inn Toy Toss Classic tournament Friday and Saturday, Dec. 8-9.
The Grizzlies will face Faith Prep from West Memphis, Arkansas, at 7 p.m. Friday and current No. 20 Iowa Western Community College from Council Bluffs at 1 p.m. Saturday.
All three games will be played in the civic center.
“We’re looking forward to the rematch with Iowa Western,” Popp said. “They’ve been playing well since we played them Nov. 10. We’re their only loss. They’re a very talented team. It’s going to be a battle.”
Saturday’s 1 p.m. game also is the time for the annual Toy Toss. For free admission to the game, fans are encouraged to bring a soft new or gently used toy to toss onto the court. The toys will be collected and distributed by the local organizers of the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program to children in the area who are less fortunate this holiday season.
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.