By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
A strong first half performance and some key shots in the fourth quarter fueled the Missouri Western women's basketball team to a 65-54 win over Lincoln at the MWSU Fieldhouse Thursday.
The Griffons (16-4, 10-2 MIAA) jumped out to a 24-15 lead at the end of the first quarter and went up 39-25 at halftime.
The Blue Tigers (5-12, 3-8 MIAA) held Missouri Western down a bit in the second half, outscoring the Griffons 29-26 over the final 20 minutes.
Lincoln, who trailed by as many as 19 in the third quarter, outscored Missouri Western 20-13 in the fourth and ended the game on an 8-1 run.
Still, Missouri Western had a critical 10-2 run in the fourth to go up 64-46 with 3:20 remaining. Junior Brionna Budgets had two big threes to spark that run and she finished with a game-high 18 points.
"Bri has done that time and again for this team," Missouri Western coach Candi Whitaker said. "I thought she showed great courage and toughness to step up and make big plays for her team."
Junior Connie Clarke had 13 points and six rebounds, while junior Johnni Gonzalez tied her season-high with 11 points on a career-high three made triples.
"I thought we got a little sloppy there in the third and fourth quarter," Gonzalez said. "Overall, I thought we kept our poise and pulled it out."
A.J. Bradley led Lincoln with 13 points. The Blue Tigers hit seven threes, evened up Western with 32 rebounds, and Lincoln turned Missouri Western over 20 times. The Blue Tigers had 21 giveaways themselves.
It wasn't always the smoothest, but nonetheless, the Griffons have won nine straight games and have palpable momentum as they get set to face No. 5 Central Missouri (16-0, 12-0 MIAA) on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. The Jennies survived 68-67 at Northwest Thursday.
"I think we just need to be us," Gonzalez said of Saturday's matchup. "Execute our plays, play together and be on the same page at all times."
Lincoln gets off to fast start in second half, put Griffons away late
The Missouri Western men's basketball team got off to a 9-2 start and went blow-for-blow with Lincoln in the first half Thursday, trailing only 26-24 at halftime.
Lincoln, though, opened the second half on a 12-2 run and maintained a double-digit lead down the stretch in a 70-56 win over the Griffons Thursday.
Lincoln (11-4, 7-4 MIAA) went up 64-46 with 3:48 left and the game was never in question after that. The Blue Tigers, who have won four straight, shot 60 percent in the second half and outscored the Griffons 44-32 over the final 20 minutes.
"We were mixing up our coverages and sending doubles," Missouri Western coach Will Martin said. "I think that was successful in the first half. In the second half, (Lincoln) did a great job of making the reads. You're always going to give up something."
"When you double like that, you rotate out of it, you're going to give something up and I thought (Lincoln) did a really good job of finding that."
Artese Stapleton and Sai Witt led four Lincoln players in double figures. They each had 19 points. Stapleton doled out six assists, while Witt had six rebounds. Kevin Kone had 16 points and 16 rebounds. D.J. Richardson followed with 10 points and four steals.
JaRon Thames led Missouri Western with a season-high 19 points. Julius Dixon had 10. Lincoln outrebounded MWSU 37-29, including 11-3 on the offensive glass.
Lincoln made 12-of-19 free throws, while Missouri Western was 6-of-9 at the stripe. The Griffons had 14 turnovers, while the Blue Tigers had only nine.
"I thought we turned the ball over a couple of times where we really could have extended our lead in the first half early," Martin said. "When you turn the ball over 14 times, it makes it really difficult. You give the other team 10-11 more possessions, it makes it hard for you to put points on the board."
Missouri Western has now dropped three in a row and six of their last seven. The Griffons stay home to host Central Missouri (8-10, 4-8 MIAA) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
"We have to be able to look adversity in the face when it hits and be able to answer the call," Martin said. "We have resilient kids and I'm proud of their resiliency, but we have to be able to put that together on the floor."
Both of Saturday's games can be heard on KFEQ Radio (680, 95.3, 680kfeq.com).
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post.