The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly basketball team posted a 2-1 record in its first road trip of the season.
The 16th-ranked Grizzlies, now 3-1, split their two games at the 6th Annual Texas East-West Challenge in Lewisville. They defeated Lee College, Baytown, Texas, 89-75 Saturday but fell to 15th-ranked Trinity Valley Community College, Athens, Texas, 87-82 in overtime Sunday.
Tuesday, they downed Murray State College 84-77 in Tishomingo, Okla.
“The guys played well Saturday. It wasn’t as close as the final score showed,” Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Chris Popp said. “Lee is talented, long and athletic. But we did what we were supposed to do and took care of business.”
Freshman guard/forward Sardaar Calhoun led the Grizzlies in scoring against Lee with 19 points, followed by sophomore guard Eric Lovett with 17, sophomore forward Burone Edwards 14 and sophomore forward Dontell Brown 13.
Against Trinity Valley, the Grizzlies had their opportunities, but couldn’t capitalize on them.
“Sunday was hard to swallow,” he added. “It was a missed opportunity. We were right there. When a game goes into overtime, you look back at so many things that would have given you one more possession, one more rebound, one more stop. That’s what it comes down to in a game like that.”
Against Trinity Valley, the Grizzlies found themselves down 42-38 at halftime, but they battled back to outscore their opponents 35-31 in the second half to send the game into extra minutes.
“Offensively, we were good in stretches, although we got cold from the perimeter for a little while,” Popp said. “They sat in a zone, and it affected us. We are going to have to learn how to adjust to that.
“Defensively, we were solid. We held them to 71 points at the end of regulation. That should be enough to win,” he added.
Calhoun once again led the Grizzlies on the scoreboard with 24 points. Edwards added 18 and freshman forward Alex Peterson recorded 11.
“Burone was really good all weekend,” Popp said. “He contines to get better as he is more aggressive. In a lot of ways, he is the glue for our team. He’s getting more comfortable with his role and what we need from him this year.”
The Grizzlies picked up their first true road win Tuesday evening against Murray State, defeating the Aggies 84-77.
After falling behind 43-35 in the first half, the Grizzlies used a zone and their fast-paced offense to outscore their opponents 49-34 in the second period.
“We started out well and played fast, the way we are supposed to play, but we got into foul trouble again. It’s gotten us in every game, so far. That’s something we need to remedy,” Popp said.
“Then, Murray went zone, and that changed our attack mentality a little bit. We’ve got to get past that,” the coach added. “We saw this a lot last year. When teams struggle to guard us in man, we see a lot of zone. I expect that to be true this year, as well.”
Despite being down at the break, Popp said his team didn’t make that many adjustments.
“It was simply that we needed to do things right, get to where we needed to be offensively and guard the way we’re supposed to,” the coach said.
“There’s always a game plan, a scheme with every opponent. We needed to follow that,” Popp said. “That’s the key with this team. When we do the things we practice, communicate and work as one, we’re really good.”
The Grizzlies also started getting some stops, which generated their offense.
“We we get stops, it allows us to get out and play fast. We are so much better when we do that,” he said. “The best offensive teams are the ones that get stops. That’s something we have to continue to do better.”
Lovett and Brown both recorded double-doubles in the game. Lovett had 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Brown scored 11 points to go with his 10 rebounds.
Calhoun led the team in scoring with 20 points, and Edwards added another 18 to the total. Peterson and freshman guard Dravon Clayborn each scored 12.
“We have to have Burone on the floor. He sat most of the first half and still had 18 points and seven rebounds. What he does for us isn’t statistical. He changes us when he’s on the floor,” Popp said.
“Sardaar had his best game with 20 points and seven rebounds, and Alex was solid with his 12 points and five rebounds. He’s been a great surprise off the bench,” the coach added.
The Grizzlies return home to play Region 16 rival Three Rivers College at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, at the West Plains Civic Center.
As with most rivalry games, Popp is expecting a battle.
“They can really shoot it. Even though they lost to Wabash Valley College at home Saturday, they were up as much as 18 points. They can score it in bunches,” Popp said.
For more information about the Grizzly basketball program, visit msuwpgrizzlies.com or call 417-255-7991.
For complete statistics of the Grizzlies’ games this season, visit hnjcaa.org/sports/mbkb/2018-19/div1/teams/MissouriStateUniversityWestPlains.