Grizzlies split 1st road games after winter break

Close-up view of the head of the Grizzly Statue

WEST PLAINS, Mo. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team went 1-1 in its first road trip following the winter break.

On Jan. 8, the Grizzlies fell to the Labette Community College Cardinals 102-91 in Parsons, Kansas, but they bounced back Jan. 10 to defeat Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa 97-87. The Grizzlies' overall season record now stands at 12-7.

At Labette

A lack of focus cost the Grizzlies a win at Labette, Head Coach Chris Popp said.

"Our mentality was wrong from the start. You can point to a let-down (from heart-breaking losses to No. 15 Indian Hills Community College and No. 6 Coffeyville Community College Jan. 4-5), overlooking somebody or whatever it was, but our minds weren't right. We weren't focused on the game," he said.

The Cardinals came out of the gate and showed they were ready to play, but the Grizzlies couldn't match their intensity. At halftime, the Grizzlies found themselves down 55-41.

Although the Grizzlies came back in the second half and out-scored the Cardinals by 3, the damage had already been done.

"I don't think our guys expected them to come at us like they did," Popp said. "They came out aggressive, pressing, and they shot it really well early. Once they had it going, they never let up."

The Grizzlies had their moments, the coach added, "but we were on our heels from the beginning."

Redshirt freshman guard Evan White proved to be a bright spot for the Grizzlies. He came off the bench to score 14 points and grab five rebounds.

"In his first game with big minutes, he really produced," Popp said. "He was seven of nine from the floor. He is a warrior, and we need that with this group."

Sophomore guard Eric Lovett led the Grizzlies' attack with 32 points. He added 10 rebounds for a double-double. Freshman guard Sardaar Calhoun and freshman point guard Dravon Clayborn each added 10 points.

At Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa

At Northern Oklahoma, the Grizzlies regained their footing.

"We didn't necessarily start slow. We struggled some with things they did defensively early. But we scored 41 points in the first half," Popp said.

"Defensively, we again were solid in the half court," he added. "Transition baskets and offensive rebounds hurt us. Their early lead was a product of some bad turnovers that were easily converted into baskets."

At halftime, the Grizzlies were down 47-41.

"Once we settled down, the guys got things going and played with good energy. I was happy with the way we competed," the coach added.

The Grizzlies out-scored the Mavericks 56-40 in the second half.

Lovett and Calhoun led the way on the scoreboard with 28 and 26 points, respectively.

White, once again, took advantage of his opportunities off the bench to add 16 points to the Grizzlies' total, going a perfect six-for-six from the floor and four-for-four from the free throw line.

He also led the team in rebounding with nine grabs.

Clayborn scored 11 points.

"Overall, it was a good road win," Popp said. "Tonkawa is a good team. They're big, long, athletic and well coached. To get that win on the road was a big step in the right direction for us."

Home game Wednesday

The Grizzlies return home for a 7 p.m. game Wednesday, Jan. 16, against Arkansas Baptist College from North Little Rock, Arkansas. The game was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but had to be moved back 24 hours due to an unforeseen circumstance, Popp said.

For more information about the Grizzly Basketball program, visit www.msuwpgrizzlies.com or call 417-255-7991.

For complete statistics of the Grizzlies' games this season, visit http://www.njcaa.org/sports/mbkb/2018-19/div1/teams/MissouriStateUniversityWestPlains.