A late 16-point lead wasn’t enough for the Emporia State men’s basketball team to capture a win as Northwest Missouri used a 13-0 run late in the second half to pull away from the Hornets and take home the victory, 84-79.
The loss marked the Hornets’ eleventh of the season and the 8th loss to an MIAA opponent.
Senior guard Lamar Wilbern started the game out well for the Hornets, hitting a long jump shot to give the team an early two point lead. Wilbern hit again on the next Hornets possession, this time from three point land.
After two points from the Bearcats, senior guard Dustin Andrews hit a big three-pointer to give the Hornets a four point advantage with a little over 17 minutes remaining in the half. Wilbern continued to be hot on the floor, hitting another shot from beyond the arc which extended ESU’s lead to nine.
The first timeout on the floor came with 14:05 left in the half, the Hornets still leading NWMSU by nine, 15-6. At the time, the Hornets were shooting 6-7 from the field.
Junior guard Matt Boswell extended ESU’s lead to 11 with a touch shot near the basket. Another media timeout paused the action with the Hornets on top, 22-11.
A mid-range jumper by junior forward Adam Holthaus and an offensive rebound put-back by senior guard Jeremiah Box put the Hornets in a more favorable position, leading the Bearcats 26-13. Senior guard Jordan Stout chipped in a three-pointer with just over eight minutes to play, giving the Hornets a 16-point lead.
The Bearcats battled back from their double-digit deficit to come within eight points of the Hornets before ESU Coach David Moe called timeout to refocus his team’s efforts.
Holthaus put up two points in the paint on consecutive possessions to give the Hornets back their double-digit lead, 36-24. Thanks to free throw shooting, Northwest Missouri cut into the Hornets lead and only trailed by three heading into the locker room, 36-33
Senior guard Tim Niles struck gold first for the Hornets with a two-point basket and a 15-foot jumper in consecutive possessions. Andrews followed up the points from Niles with a conventional three-point play, giving the Hornets a five point lead, 43-38, with 17:16 remaining in the half.
The Hornets picked up six fouls in less than four minutes, which allowed for repeated second chances for the Bearcats as they finally took the lead with about 15:30 minutes to play, 44-43. Niles would answer with a three-pointer on the Hornets’ first possession trailing Northwest Missouri, giving the Hornets back the lead, 46-44.
Following a media timeout, Stout hit a big time three-pointer that extended the Hornets’ lead to five – the Bearcats committed a turnover on their next possession in their own backcourt as Niles stole the ball, shot and missed from beyond the arc but made three free throws as he was fouled in the act of shooting.
After trading points, Stout stepped up again and hit the same three-pointer as he did earlier. A timeout by Northwest Missouri followed a three-pointer from the Bearcats, with the Hornets still leading, 55-49, with 13:04 left in the contest.
Another trey by the Bearcats cut ESU’s lead to three, 55-52, before Boswell connected with a three of his own, bringing the Hornets’ lead back up to six, 58-52. A media timeout with 9:50 left in the half saw the Hornets holding onto a narrow lead, 58-56.
Two consecutive treys from Northwest Missouri led the Hornets to trail by four with 8:53 left in the half, which forced Moe to call a timeout. Another three-pointer from NWMSU extended their lead to seven, but was quickly cut back down to four by a trey from Andrews.
An empty Northwest Missouri possession quickly turned into a long outlet pass to Holthaus, who in turn made a flashy dunk to swing the momentum to the Hornets. Holthaus duplicated the same move on the next Hornets possession, cutting the Bearcats’ lead to one over the Hornets, 66-65. The last timeout on the floor of the half saw the Bearcats leading the Hornets, 68-66, with 4:35 left to play.
With less than two minutes to play, the Bearcats started pulling away, leading by 10 points thanks to easy plays on the low post due to less than inspiring defense by the Hornets.
In the final minute of the game the Bearcats pulled away from the Hornets indefinitely, defeating ESU 84-79.
The Hornets had five players who scored in double figures, highlighted by Niles with 15 points and Wilbern and Boswell with 14 points apiece. Box had a career-high 11 rebounds to lead the team.
A frustrated Andrews talked after the game about the deficiencies in the Hornets’ game as of late.
“We don’t value possessions,” Andrews said. “We turn the ball over, and that doesn’t matter to us. We just don’t make good decisions in every part of the game.”
Holthaus said that the team’s lack of focus was the cause of the late collapse.
“When we were up 16, it was a great high, and then just started losing our concentration,” Holthaus said. “They were making a few plays that we need to fight through. When they got back even with us, we needed to come through and play harder, and we just kind of eased up and they just took over.”
Moe cited a variety of reasons why the team has not found success.
“It’s the same way every game,” Moe said. “The other team has more will to win, generally, than we do. We’re usually just noncompetitive, non aware – basically we’re not well coached. We don’t do the things that we need to do to win.”
The Hornets will try and rebound from the loss against Missouri Western this Wednesday at White Auditorium. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.