POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team will try to add another win to their Region 16 record tonight, Jan. 22, when they host rival State Fair Community College of Sedalia, Mo., in a 7 p.m. contest at the West Plains Civic Center.
The Grizzlies (13-8) picked up their first Region 16 win Saturday, Jan. 19, by holding off the Three Rivers College Raiders 81-78 in Poplar Bluff, Mo. The Grizzlies will enter tonight’s game with a 1-1 region record, as will the State Fair Roadrunners. The Roadrunners are 14-6 overall for the season.
Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Yancey Walker called Saturday’s win “hard fought,” adding “we are very fortunate to have held on for the win. We kept saying that, even though we had a big lead, this game was going to come down to the wire, and it did. Three Rivers is a tough place to win, but we were able to persevere through all kinds of adversity.”
The Raiders jumped out to an early 5-0 lead, but the Grizzlies came roaring back with a series of scoring runs to go up 46-27 at halftime. Three Rivers made several offensive adjustments at halftime and outscored the Grizzlies 51-35 in the second half, but the Grizzlies played well enough to hold on for the win.
“For little over a half, our effort on defense was very good. They struggled from the outside, and we kept them off of the free throw line,” Walker said. “They threw everything at us with their presses and their trapping. When we attacked, we scored; when we didn’t, we played into their hands. It felt like there was a stretch where we were playing not to lose instead of to win.
“We also did a poor job late with our shot selection, our transition defense and controlling the factors that we could control,” he added.
Statistically, the game was pretty close. The Grizzlies shot 49.1 percent from the field, connecting on 27 of 55 attempts. They only hit two of 13 attempts from 3-point range, however, for 15.4 percent and 21 of 40 shots from the free throw line for 52.5 percent. They also recorded 57 rebounds, including 26 off the offensive glass, 17 assists, 13 turnovers and three blocks.
Leading the Grizzlies on the scoreboard were freshman guard Jon Tshibuy with 18 points, followed by freshman guards Desmond Buerge with 17 and Arroyo Edwards with 14, and sophomore forward Keaton Jackson with 11. Both Tshibuy and Jackson recorded double-doubles with their rebound totals of 18 and 11, respectively, added in.
The Raiders hit 15 of 38 from the field for 39 percent, nine of 22 from 3-point range for 41 percent and 21 of 43 from the free throw line for 49 percent. They also had 47 rebounds, including 19 offensive, 15 assists, 11 turnovers and seven blocks. Leading the Raiders were Ayindle Sprewell with 16 points, Eli Sample 15, John Meyer 13 and Ibrahim Djambo 10.
“Jon gave us a nice lift off the bench,” Walker said. “Keaton also did a good job on Ibrahim Djambo. Desmond did a very good job attacking the basket most of the game.
“It’s hard to go into Poplar Bluff and win, but these guys did it,” the coach added. “For that, they deserve a lot of credit.”
Walker also said he wanted to thank the Grizzly fans who made the trip to Poplar Bluff. “You were outstanding, and your energy gave us a huge lift,” he said.
The coach noted a change in opponent for the Grizzlies’ Jan. 25 home game. “Pulaski Technical College wasn’t able to fulfill its commitment for Friday’s game, so we have replaced them with Quakerdale Prep from Iowa,” Walker said. “Our fans will probably remember that they really pushed us at the Coffeyville, Kan., tournament at the end of November.”
The game will get underway at 7 p.m. in the civic center arena.
“I also want to encourage area residents to get a team together and participate in our 10th annual trivia night Jan. 26,” the coach said. Contact Dean of Student Services/Athletic Director Dr. Herb Lunday at 417-255-7225 or HerbLunday@MissouriState.edu for details.
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.