Lions look to pounce on Northwest Bearcats

T.J. Britton, guard, goes up for a shot against SBU in the Feb. 10 game.

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T.J. Britton, guard, goes up for a shot against SBU in the Feb. 10 game.

Missouri Southern’s playoff chances are on the line as they finish up the road portion of conference play against Northwest Missouri State tomorrow.

“Every game is important,” head coach Robert Corn said. “Right now it’s a four-game season, and we’ve got some pretty big games ahead.”

The last time the Lions and Bearcats played, Southern won the game by two points. With strategy, Corn hopes to sweep the season contests with Northwest.

“The first thing we have got to do is take care of the ball,” he said. “Northwest is a team that comes at you with pressure. We have to start the offense where we have an opportunity to do something, and we have to execute and shoot the ball.

“Defensively, we have to have a solid game. We have to defend against the three-point shot. Northwest had 25 turnovers the last time we played them.”

The Bearcats are a team searching for a conference title and also a position in the NCAA tournament.

“They are a team that is capable of hurting you all around the floor,” Corn said. “They are not a team which relies on one guy to carry the team. If they were to rely on one guy, it would probably be (sophomore forward Hunter) Henry. He’s very active.”

At home Saturday, Ed Miles scored a career-high 23 points as the Lions fell to Southwest Baptist 87-77. T.J. Britton had 18 points and Denote Cox contributed a double double, 14 points and 10 rebounds.

“Ed gave us some good energy,” Corn said. “Both T.J. and Ed have been playing some good basketball over the past two weeks. Both guys have capitalized on plays and on opportunities.”

Though some of the stats looked better than in some of the previous contests, Corn points out what the major difference maker was in the game.

“It came down to our inability of making free throws against the three-point shooting of SBU,” he said.

SBU made 16 three-point shots, seven of those coming from Jason Jemison. He finished the night with 24 points.

“We gave them too many open looks,” Corn said.

The Lions began the week in a four-way tie with Fort Hayes, Washburn and Missouri Western for the final two tournament spots. But after a Southern loss Wednesday to Central Missouri, and a win by Western, the Lions are on the outside looking in going into their matchup with Northwest. Only Central Missouri, Northwest, and Emporia State have clinched playoff spots.

After Southern plays at Northwest they will return home Wednesday to play Pittsburg State. To have a realistic chance at making the postseason, the Lions will have to win two of their last three including their season finale against the currently eighth-place Western Griffons.