By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
The Missouri Western men's basketball team picked up a statement win on Friday night in their first home game of the 2021-22 season, outlasting No. 17 Oklahoma Baptist, 74-71 in the Hillyard Men's Tipoff Classic.
Sophomore Will Eames led all scorers with a season-high 22 points on the night, with JaQuaylon "Q" Mays adding 17 and Alex John with 10.
"There's still ways to get better," Missouri Western head coach Will Martin said after. "My hope for myself is I treat this game like a loss so that I can learn as much as I did in the previous losses."
The win Friday snapped a two-game losing skid for Missouri Western. The Griffons dropped a pair of games to Minnesota State-Mankato and Henderson State at the Central Region Challenge in Kansas City last weekend.
After a bit of a slow start, Missouri Western (2-3) was able to take an 18-13 lead with 9:48 to go in the first half off of a couple of Will Eames buckets.
Eames' 22 points were three shy of tying his career-high. He finished 3-of-5 from beyond the arc to go with six rebounds, two assists and two steals.
"(Will) called me (Thursday) night," Martin said. "He was working on some homework and he said, 'Coach, I just want you to know - if you put me in position, I'll be aggressive for you.' He got his 16 shot attempts, made nine and (wound up) with 22 points."
The Griffons capped off the first half with a 16-5 run as Mays found Reese Glover wide open for a deep three with 14 seconds on the clock. Missouri Western took a 34-26 lead into the locker room, and held the Bison at arm's length the entire second half.
The Griffons never lost the lead in the final 20 minutes, and were able to fend off a late run from Oklahoma Baptist (2-1).
The Bison closed to within 69-67 with just over a minute left, but Glover hit a dagger three with just over 50 seconds left to put the Griffons ahead by five.
"I hope that our guys feel like I trust them a lot," Martin said. "I think Reese Glover is the best shooter in the country. He just did what he's been doing every day in practice."
A pair of free throws by Mays in the final five seconds ultimately sealed the deal.
Missouri Western shot 47.4 percent (27-57) from the floor and a solid 42.1 percent (8-19) from beyond the arc. The Griffons also made the most of their free throws, sinking 12-of-15 on the night. Defensively, MWSU held the Bison to 43.8 percent (28-64) shooting and 33.3 percent (7-21) from three.
The Griffons stay home to take on a stout Missouri-St. Louis squad on Saturday to close out the Hillyard Tip-Off Classic.
The Tritons (2-1) pushed No. 1-ranked Northwest Missouri State (4-1) to the brink on Friday in St. Joseph, leading for the majority of the first half before running out of steam and falling 78-65.
Despite the Tritons taking a loss, Martin knows his team will have to bring the energy again Saturday if they hope to win back-to-back.
"I don't want us to feel like just because we sat down and guarded for one night that we don't have to do it again," Martin said. "You have to build that habit. So, we're going to continue to reemphasize that."
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