WARRENSBURG - Central Missouri led Missouri Western for all but five minutes, 30 seconds of the second half on Thursday, Dec. 5, but never by more than the five-point lead the Mules took into the half.
The Mules inability to pull away in the second half left the Griffons in striking distance, which Western took advantage of, handing the Mules a 67-63 loss in their MIAA opener.
“When you don’t hit open shots and you don’t guard the basketball very well, it’s going to be tough to win,” Central Missouri coach Doug Karleskint said.
Missouri Western changed the course of the night with a Reese Glover 3-pointer with 2:49 left in the game, putting the Griffons up 62-59. Missouri Western went 5 of 22 from behind the three-point line on the night with Glover, who finished with 14 points, knocking down three long range shots.
DeAndre Sorrells brought the Mules back within a point twice in the final 2:30, as part of his 20 point night - a new career-high for the freshman.
“He is the most bought in guy,” Karleskint said. “I’ve been saying it to the team and everybody else. He is the most bought-in guy on our team as a freshman. We need some other guys to step up and have the courage and willingness to do what he does.”
Fouls by Daniel Ferris and Kendale Hampton sent Will Eames, who led the Griffons with 25 points, to the free throw line on back-to-back possessions to allow Missouri Western to keep the Mules at bay. Hampton’s foul came late in the shot clock with 25 seconds left on the game clock.
Missouri Western made 25 trips the charity strip for the evening, converting 22 compared to the Mules 13 of 18.
“Put them at the line way too many times by being undisciplined, reaching and playing with our hands more than our feet,” Karleskint said.
UCM had two looks following Eames second pair of free throws which put Western up 66-63, but both Gavin Pinkley’s shot and Ferris’s put back were off the mark, allowing the Griffons to escape with the win.
The Mules missed two-thirds of their lay-ups in the loss (9 of 23 around the rim) and missed 11 of their 16 mid-range jumpers. From three, UCM was 4 of 15.
“I thought we had plenty of good looks, we executed some of our stuff and we are counting on guys to make some shots that they were brought here for,” Karleskint said.
Comparatively, the Griffons were 9 of 12 around the rim and 0 of 4 in the mid-range.
“Defensively, we weren’t good,” Karleskint said. “They just attacked it off the bounce and we couldn’t keep the ball in front of us.”
“I thought it was an embarrassing effort defensively.”
A sluggish first half saw neither team break the double-digit barrier until 6:22 into the game.
Pinkley, who finished with 11 points, broke a three minute game-wide scoring drought to tie the game at 10-10 at the midway point of the half.
A 7-0 run late with under five minutes to play gave UCM a five-point cushion, 24-19, with a Sorrells 3-pointer.
The freshman guard kept the Mules advantage at five, 28-23, at the half by knocking down a pair of free throws with .3 seconds until the intermission.
The Mules fall to 3-5 on the year and 0-1 in the MIAA with the loss. This is the third-straight year UCM has started MIAA with a loss.
“Until we figure out that we have to win as a team, we are going to keep continuing to battle ourselves,” Karleskint said.
Central Missouri’s opening slate doesn’t get any easier as the Mules welcome defending national champions and No. 1 team in the nation Northwest Missouri State to the Multi at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7.
The Bearcats are riding a 46-game win streak and are coming off a 87-53 win over Lincoln with Ryan Hawkins scoring 43 points, eclipsing the 40-point mark for the second time this season.