By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
In a tight game that featured seven lead changes and four ties, Missouri Western was matching NSIC heavyweight Northern State blow-for-blow Saturday, trailing only 45-42 with 9:55 remaining.
The Griffons (1-1), however, scored only four points over the next 6:28 of game time.
Missouri Western got down by 16 with 3:27 remaining and got back to within seven points with 56 seconds left, but Northern State made six free throws in the final 48 seconds to beat Missouri Western 68-57 on Saturday in the Hillyard Tipoff Classic at the MWSU Fieldhouse.
The Griffons turned the ball over 17 times, which led to 25 Northern State points the other way. Missouri Western shot just 38 percent (19-of-50) from the field, including 7-of-23 from three.
"We forced a lot of bad shots," Missouri Western men's basketball coach Will Martin said. "When you do that against a really good team, they make you pay. That's what Northern did tonight. We were right there most of the game, but again, when you're turning the ball over, even if the score says you're close, you're really not. You're putting yourself in a position to not have success."
Missouri Western held Northern State to a modest 39.7% shooting (23-of-58), but seven second half threes helped the Wolves turn a one-point halftime lead into a double-digit advantage down the stretch.
The Griffons led for 8:32, including a 29-28 edge with 19:20 left, but a three by Northern State's Josh Dilling put the Wolves back up 31-29 with 18:53 remaining and Northern never trailed after that.
Sophomore Taye Fields led Missouri Western with 19 points and eight rebounds. Junior Will Eames had 13 points and seven boards. Redshirt sophomore Julius Dixon logged 11 points and seven rebounds for the Griffons, while sophomore Zion Swader notched 10 points.
Senior Sam Masten paced three Northern State players in double figures. Masten scored a game-high 24 points on an efficient 9-of-13 shooting from the floor. The Wolves were efficient with the ball as a team, logging 15 assists to just 10 turnovers.
Missouri Western goes on the road this Thursday to face Oklahoma Baptist (0-2) in Shawnee, OK. That game will start at 7:30 p.m. and will be carried on KFEQ Radio (680, 95.3 FM).
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.