The Pittsburg State University Men’s Basketball team faced the Lions of Missouri Southern University in a home-and-away matchup last week. The games saw the Gorillas win close games against the Lions. Pittsburg State beat Missouri Southern on Feb. 16 with a score of 95-82 at Leggett & Platt Athletic Center in Joplin. Then, on Feb. 19, the Gorillas came out ahead of the Lions in a close 73-71 victory.
Missouri Southern entered the week as 6th in the MIAA and a record of 13-11. However, their record and experience against ranked opponents were not enough to defeat Gorillas.
Pitt State found success in Joplin and at home because of strong performances by Magic Reliford, sophomore guard, and Tyler Hawkins, junior guard. Reliford posted 24 points against Missouri Southern in the first matchup and Tyler Hawkins led the team in points during the following game at home, scoring 20 points.
The Gorillas began the first game against the Lions with little offensive success. In the first 10 minutes of play, Pittsburg State was down 20-15 and continued to struggle until the final five minutes of the first half.
A good three-pointer by R.J. Lawrence, sophomore guard, put the Gorillas up by one with 4:44 on the clock. Pitt State continued their success during the remaining minutes of the half and entered the locker room up 48-35.
Pittsburg State continued to dominate the game with shots inside the paint by Reliford and points made from beyond the arc by Lawrence and Hawkins.
With 10 minutes left in the game, the Gorilla extended the lead to 25 points, their largest lead, with a score of 70-45. Missouri Southern continued to fight but was unsuccessful in regaining momentum.
The final score of the game was 95-82. Hawkins posted seven rebounds and one assist. The leading scorer of the Lions was Lawson Jenkins, freshman forward. Jenkins produced 24 points from one free throw, nine free throws, and five three-pointers.
Pittsburg State worked to continue their success at home versus Missouri Southern on Feb. 19. The Gorillas and Lions traded leads during the first half. Pittsburg State stayed competitive with shots from Bobby Arthur-Williams Jr., graduate student and forward, who scored nine points in the first half.
Both teams entered the locker room with enthusiasm as the Lions scored the final shot and the Gorillas led by one with a score of 37-36.
Pittsburg State extended their lead to eight in the first five minutes of the half. Missouri Southern responded and brought the game to within two points.
With under three minutes left in the game, Hawkins gave the Gorillas the lead with two made free throws. Missouri Southern was not able to make up the deficit and lost by two after a free throw by Ryan Pippins, graduate student and guard.
The final score of the game was 73-71. The lead changed 13 times throughout the game with the largest lead coming from Pittsburg in the second half. Hawkins dominated on the court with four rebounds and four assists.
The Gorillas will finish their season on the road against MIAA opponents. On Feb. 23 Pitt State will face Emporia State University at White Auditorium in Emporia, Kansas. Then, on Feb. 26 the Gorillas will face the Newman University Jets in Wichita, Kansas.