1 game separates Lions, Griffons going into Saturday

Lions Head Coach Robert Corn talks to him team during a timeout in Southerns 102-95 loss to SBU.

Jim Quist

Lions’ Head Coach Robert Corn talks to him team during a timeout in Southern’s 102-95 loss to SBU.

The Missouri Southern men’s basketball team went through the gauntlet known as the top of the MIAA last week by playing nationally ranked Central Missouri and then Southwest Baptist.

Now, sitting in seventh place in the league standings, the Lions will look to get a road win in St. Joseph Saturday when the team travels north to play Missouri Western State University.

The Griffons are one spot behind MSSU in the league standings with a 6-7 mark, while Southern sports a 6-6 mark. However, in overall record MSSU has the edge with a 16-7 mark, compared to MWSU’s 9-11 record.

Southern’s last game, Saturday against No. 9 ranked Southwest Baptist, was a 102-95 loss. It was the second time this year the Bearcats scored more than 100 points against MSSU, but a lot better than Southern’s 105-65 loss earlier in the year in Bolivar.

“I thought we played well and the effort was good, we showed improvement,” said MSSU coach Robert Corn. “We practiced good Monday and Tuesday and we played good at Central Missouri (a 79-68 loss to the No. 18 ranked team in the country) and we practiced good Thursday and Friday and played well against Southwest Baptist.

“We just came up short in both. The goal is to get better from today (Monday) until Friday.”

In the SBU loss, four of the five starters scored in double figures for Southern. However, it was freshman Jason Adams who led the team with 21 points, coming off the bench.

Southern was without a Wednesday game this week, so the team practiced throughout the week, before spending the last two days preparing for the Griffons.

Since returning to school the first part of January, the Griffons have only three wins, but two of those came in their last three games against Pittsburg State and Emporia State.

The Griffons’ go-to-players have been Dominique Thurston, a sophomore forward and Lonnel Johnson, a senior guard. Thurston averages 15.2 points per game, while Johnson scored 14.2 points per game.

“Missouri Western is playing well right now,” Corn said. “They lost to SBU by one (79-78) and got beat on the road against Washburn by one (79-78). They are playing well and we need to match their intensity and play well.

“They are very athletic and do they do a nice job of spacing on the floor. They do a nice job of dribble-penetration and they do a nice job of shooting the ball. We need to be tough on ‘D’ and we can’t afford to give them wide open looks.

“We have to play well defensively to win on the road. We also need to take care of the ball. We are up in the high teens in turnovers and at this point of the season you want to be in the low teens.”