The Emporia State men’s basketball team defeated the Griffons of Missouri Western State last night, 70-53.
Senior guard Jeremiah Box talked about the team’s mentality heading into the game.
“We just knew we had to pull it off,” Box said. “We’ve been in a slump, in a little bit of a losing streak, and we knew we just hadn’t competed for a full 40 minutes yet, offensively and defensively. We knew we just had to come out and play our best – if we competed for 40 minutes we knew we could win the game.”
Box started off the first half strong for the Hornets, hitting a buzzer-beating three-pointer to give his team an early 3-0 lead. A three-pointer by senior guard Dustin Andrews extended the Hornets lead to six, as ESU went up 8-2 with over 17 minutes to play in the half. A slashing move to the basket by Andrews extended the Hornets’ lead to seven at 13-6 with 15:31 left in the first half.
The teams traded points back and forth until Box stepped up and hit a three-pointer from the corner, extending the Hornets lead to 10 at 22-12. A 30-second timeout was called by Emporia State Coach David Moe at the 8:27 mark, with the Hornets still on top of the Griffons, 22-15.
Following the timeout, four points came the Griffons way on consecutive possessions, bringing the score to 22-19 with just over 6:30 left in the half. Senior guard Lamar Wilbern hit a three-pointer from the corner to give the Hornets an eight point lead.
On the following Hornets’ possession, Wilbern was called for a foul on the rebound of a missed shot, then a technical foul. A steal by Wilbern on the next Griffons’ possession led to two breakaway points for Andrews. A media timeout gave a break in the action, with the Hornets leading Missouri Southern 31-23.
Junior forward Adam Holthaus chipped in three points off of a conventional three point play, giving the Hornets a nine point lead with just over 3:30 left to play in the half. The Hornets went into the locker room holding onto a close lead over the Griffons, 39-34.
Early turnovers didn’t help the Hornets at the start of the second half as they saw their lead cut to two, 40-38. A three-pointer by Griffons forward Dominique Thuston gave Missouri Western a one point lead, 41-40, with 16:58 remaining in the half.
The Hornets retook the lead, 42-41, on a drive to the basket by Box – Box made the shot and was fouled, but couldn’t convert on the free throw line. Box scored again, this time with a five foot jumper in the post that extended the Hornets’ lead to three, 44-41. A timeout on the floor saw the Hornets leading the Griffons 46-43 with 13:38 remaining in the contest.
The Hornets lead was extended to nine with over 10:10 to play thanks to two made free throws from senior guard Tim Niles. After a three-pointer by Missouri Western, the Griffons took a timeout, trailing the Hornets 46-52. Another media timeout stopped the game right after Wilbern drove to the hole, made the basket and was fouled on the way there.
Following the timeout, Wilbern hit the free throw, improving Emporia State’s lead to 11. After a media timeout stopped the action, Andrews stepped up and hit a big three-pointer to pad the Hornets’ lead to 14 with over four minutes left in the contest. ESU went up by 19 with a trey from Box from the left corner, taking the score to 70-51 with less than a minute to play.
The Hornets kept their distance and captured a convincing victory over the Griffons, 70-53.
Box led the team in scoring with 15 points, followed closely by Niles with 12 and Andrews and Wilbern with 11 points apiece. Wilbern also had a game-high five assists.
Coming into the game, defense, especially in transition, was a point of concern for the Hornets. Moe said that because of the Hornets’ ability to shoot the ball well, the defense got better.
“We made some mistakes in transition, but when you’re scoring and hitting shots your transition defense is going to be a little bit better,” Moe said. “When you’re missing every time and you’re coming around standing, standing on offense and dribbling out the possession, your transition defense isn’t going to be any good.”
Andrews said that the team was well aware of the importance of the game.
“We knew it was a must-win game…as far as mentality goes, I think we were able to sustain it the entire game,” Andrews said. “We always come out and we compete hard. We limited mistakes tonight, which was big. We just competed for a full 40.”
The Hornets completed their three-game home stand and will next find themselves on the road versus Truman. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m. in Kirksville, Mo.