Southern concentrates on time-honored defense mantra

Carlos Collazo, freshman forward, drives past a Messenger player during the Feb. 17 game. The Lions defeated the Eagles 114-48.

Carlos Collazo, freshman forward, drives past a Messenger player during the Feb. 17 game. The Lions defeated the Eagles 114-48.

Offense wins games, but defense wins championships.

This is a time-honored mantra that one might see hanging in the locker room of any athletic team. It is something the Missouri Southern men’s basketball team is concentrating on.

The Lions have not had a problem scoring this season. In eight of the last 10 games, Southern has scored at least 80 points.

This trend was evident on Feb. 15 at Emporia State University. The Lions, while scoring a more-than-respectable 90 points on the road, allowed 104 to the Hornets. This, according to Lions head coach Robert Corn, can be attributed to poor defense and excellent execution by ESU.

“Besides the fact that Emporia is a very good team, we didn’t do a very good job on transition defense, and we had some breakdowns in our half-court defense,” Corn said.

Junior guard Ameer Watts led the Lions offensively with a career-high 30 points.

“Other than Ameer, we didn’t shoot the ball well,” Corn said. “When we score 90 points and one guy has 30, that shows you our shots just weren’t falling.”

Corn said the team is not going to make any changes to its defensive approach but execution does need to improve.

“If we don’t correct these little problems now, they are going to cause an even bigger problem for us in the conference tournament,” Corn said. “We have to work on stopping penetration and rebounding.”

There was some defensive improvement made by the Lions when they played the Messenger College Eagles on Feb. 17. The Eagles were handed a huge 114-48 loss in the first meeting between the two Joplin colleges.

“That was a very good game for us at this point in the season,” Corn said. “It was a chance for some of the guys who work hard for us in practice each week to get some good game minutes. They all stayed within themselves and our game plan and played a very clean game. “It showed me that if something unforeseen were to come up in the conference tournament I have some guys that can get the job done. And I wouldn’t hesitate to use any one of them.”

Southern was led by sophomore forward Caleb Engelken with 22 points and redshirt freshman forward Dan Jones with 17 points.

This game was also a chance for Messenger to improve its program and gain a little more recognition. It received a small amount of money for the athletic department and got the opportunity to play a higher caliber opponent.

On Feb. 19, the Lions faced the Missouri Western Griffons on the road. The Griffons, Corn said, are the hottest in the conference and are capable of beating anyone in the league if they are shooting the ball well.

The Griffons handed Southern (16-8, 9-6 MIAA) its sixth conference loss of the year and its second straight road loss. The Lions’ defense fared a little better in the 82-68 loss.

Leading the Lions in scoring were Warren and Watts with 20 and 15 points respectively.

This loss broke the three-way tie the Lions were in with the Griffons and Northwest Missouri State University. Although the Lions are assured of a place in the conference tournament, they are all but out of the race for the MIAA regular season title.