Emporia State men’s basketball team lined up against The University of Central Missouri on Thursday after being postponed by weather conditions. Looking to improve upon their loss earlier in the season against UCM, the Hornets kept themselves in the game for the first half, but their efforts were marginalized early in the second half as they lost 68-51.
“Central came out (and) got physical with us,” said Head Coach David Moe. “We didn’t respond as has happened to us before… We’ve got to learn from it at some point.”
Starting the game disoriented, the Hornets put themselves in an early bind by making two fouls in the first minute and then found themselves down 5-0. ESU regained their composure and stormed back with an 11-0 run to tie the game and eventually took the lead. The half ended with UCM holding a tenuous lead over the Hornets, 27-25.
“I can’t put a finger on it. We play better when we make shots early… It makes the game easier for us, and today we didn’t make shots early,” said senior forward Michael Tyler. “We had open shots. We just couldn’t make them.”
The Hornets struggled to make anything happen down low due to the physical nature of Central Missouri. In the second half, ESU was only able to register four points in the paint.
“They are a physical team, and I thought (in the) second half we struggled,” said senior guard Matt Boswell. “We couldn’t knock down shots. When we can’t go inside, it really hurts us (offensively).”
The Hornets quickly fell further behind after a 9-3 run by UCM to start the second half. Tyler broke the Hornets dry spell by making their first field goal of the half almost nine minutes in.
“I think we struggle against bigger physical teams,” Boswell said. “I think if we get mentally and physically tougher we have a chance to compete with anyone.”
The Hornets only made six more field goals – two of them coming from beyond the arc – the rest of the game. Shooting 31.6 percent for the game and 26.9 percent for the second half, the Hornets failed to rise up to UCM’s physical challenges.
“We have to respond. You can’t just beat the soft teams. You’ve got to beat the teams that challenge you physically,” Moe said. “You have to be able to be tough to still make plays when the other team is physical.”
The Hornets now stand at 11-10 on the season and 8-7 in the MIAA. Preparing to go on a three game road stretch, the Hornets are looking for more conference wins.
“Every game is a must win now. We’ve got to take it one game at a time,” Tyler said. “We didn’t get this one. We’ve got to move on and get the next one.”