Pitt struggles against Bearcats’ zone defense
Garret McCullough | Sports editor
You would think after an 82-84 loss at Central Missouri last Saturday, PSU already had its fill of close games. But the Gorillas suffered another tight one Wednesday night, losing to Southwest Baptist 65-73.
Fans knew the Pittsburg men were in for another nail biter after the first half, with SBU leading the home team 29-31. Spotty Gorilla shooting, 33.3 percent from the field, and quick Bearcat layups put Pitt State in a quick 13-point deficit almost seven minutes into the second.
Following the loss, “frustration” was the first word out of the mouth of Pitt State head coach Kevin Muff. Muff’s team knew how they were going to be played defensively, but still did not produce.
“We didn’t establish and do what we needed to do out of the gate,” Muff said. “We were good enough defensively, just not good enough offensively.”
PSU couldn’t get anything going consistently until a monster dunk by junior forward JaVon McGee, who led the team with 13 points. Guard Eric Ray would try to build on the momentum, making a three-point basket and cutting the Bearcat lead to eight.
But just when it seemed Pitt State was geared up to make a run, SBU was able to throw out a zone defense, which has been an issue for this Gorilla team recently.
“When you see a zone, you become hesitant,” Muff said. “You kind of pick and choose your times (to attack) as opposed to a man-to-man. You can’t just wait to get down to be aggressive.”
Losing their edge
The game was filled with uncharacteristic play by the Gorillas. Ray and Wichita native Marky Nolan combined for nine points from the field in the entire game.
“(Ray) kind of struggled a little bit,” Muff said. “But we need him to take his shots when he gets them and be as aggressive as he needs to be.”
One bright spot
Ian Ponds tried his best to spark the team down the stretch with the starting guards struggling. Ponds had six points in only 12 minutes of play on perfect shooting from the floor and from the line. Muff was impressed with Ponds’ play, but was even more impressed by Ponds reaction to the loss after the game. Ponds’ could have been satisfied with himself, but instead showed anguish about the loss.
PSU was able to keep it close near the end with turnovers by Baptist. With 1:56 remaining, SBU forward Jake Littrel was unable to handle a pass and the ball literally went between his legs and out of bounds. Courtney Ingram capitalized on the ensuing possession, laying it up and shrinking the Bearcat lead to four.
But with time running out, Pitt State was forced to foul, but committed two turnovers late, which proved costly with the Bearcats hitting everything from the line. Southwest made its last eight free throws; the Gorillas were unable to get the victory.
PSU is now 12-9 (8-6 MIAA) on the season heading into a Saturday showdown with the No. 1 MIAA-ranked Northwest Missouri State University.