Western men leaning on late-season lessons heading into MIAA tourney | Social

Making his first trip to Kansas City for the MIAA Tournament as head coach at Missouri Western, Will Martin is counting the blessings of this regular season.

Coming off a year where the Griffons went to the NCAA Tournament, the Griffons didn’t have the type of campaign they had hoped for, going 14-16 and finishing seventh in the MIAA.

But the bumps that came with a seven-game losing streak in the middle of the year brought light where the team could shine.

“You look back and see the positives that come from the negatives. You play a (Nebraska-Kearney) game without five players, three starters, but that game really turned our freshmen around, who they were and that they were ready,” Martin said. “Because of that game, you have a freshman of the year-type of the rest of the year from Taye Fields and Zion Swader stepping up to become a floor general.”

In that game, Fields totaled 15 points and 15 rebounds, 11 on the offensive glass. Over the final month and a half, he started nine games, including seven of the last eight, and totaled five double-doubles. His scoring average jumped from 2.0 points to 6.6 during that span, and his rebounds more than doubled from 1.6 to 5.0.

Swader scored 20 points in that game and earned double-digit minutes seven times in the past six weeks. The Griffons went from on the bubble to start February to finishing 5-4 with notable wins against No. 13 Central Oklahoma and Emporia State, teams that went 3-0 against Co-MIAA Champion Northwest this season.

“I’ll remember this year for the rest of my life,” Martin said. “When I look back on this year, there will be plenty of basketball things. I wish I could’ve done better, but the perspective is gonna be what we were able to do to take two or three steps forward for the future of this program . … You’re gonna see some of the fruits of that next year.”

The Griffons now head to Kansas City as the No. 7 seed look to make some noise, beginning with an 8:15 pm first round game with No. 10 Rogers State on Wednesday at Municipal Auditorium. The winner advances to play No. 2 Northwest at 8:15 pm Thursday in the quarterfinals.

Western faced Rogers State (15-13) in the opening MIAA game of the year Dec. 2, winning 68-52 at MWSU Fieldhouse. Reese Glover tallied 11 points and four assists that game, but he hasn’t played since Jan. 13 and just recently rejoined the team after multiple weeks away. Starting center Alex John also hasn’t played more than 10 minutes in nearly two months due to a back injury.

Despite being the final team in the field, Martin doesn’t expect Rogers to rollover Wednesday night.

“I’d say they’re the second-best defense in the league and top three in the country,” Martin said. “It’s gonna be a game where we have to move the ball. They’re gonna be tough to penetrate. We have to be extremely intentional with the offensive side of the ball with how we share the ball.”

That was also among the most efficient games for senior Q Mays, who tallied 12 points and six assists against Rogers. After coming off the bench midweek against Fort Hays, Mays came back with 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in the finale against Nebraska-Kearney.

With every game being win or go home, Martin’s counting on that same production from here on out.

“His performance against Kearney is the type of leadership we need going into this tournament,” Martin said. That game was very indicative of the response he had. … If he can play like that in the MIAA Tournament, we’ve got a chance to make a run.”

Wednesday, March 2 – First Rounds

Men’s Game 1 – No. 8 Central Missouri vs. No. 9 Northeastern State – 6 pm

Men’s Game 2 – No. 7 Missouri Western vs. No. 10 Rogers State – 8:15 pm

Thursday, March 3 – Quarterfinals Day 1

Men’s Game 3 – No. 1 Central Oklahoma vs. Winner of Game 1 – 6 pm

Men’s Game 4 – No. 2 Northwest Missouri vs. Winner of Game 2 – 8:15 pm

Friday, March 4 – Quarterfinals Day 2

Men’s Game 5 – No. 4 Washburn vs. No. 5 Emporia State – 6 pm

Men’s Game 6 – No. 3 Fort Hays State vs. No. 6 Missouri Southern – 8:15 pm

Saturday, March 5 – Semifinals

Men’s Game 7 – Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 5 – 6 pm

Men’s Game 8 – Winner of Game 4 vs. Winner of Game 6 – 8:15 pm

Sunday, March 6 – Championship

Men’s Game 9 – Winner of Game 7 vs. Winner of Game 8 – 3:30 pm

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL BRACKET

Wednesday, March 2 – First Round

Women’s Game 1 – No. 8 Pittsburg State vs. No. 9 Washburn – 12 pm

Women’s Game 2 – No. 7 Central Oklahoma vs. No. 10 Emporia State – 2:15 pm

Thursday, March 3 – Quarterfinals Day 1

Women’s Game 3 – No. 1 Missouri Southern vs. Winner of Game 1 – 12 pm

Women’s Game 4 – No. 2 Fort Hays State vs. Winner of Game 2 – 2:15 pm

Friday, March 4 – Quarterfinals Day 2

Women’s Game 5 – No. 4 Central Missouri vs. No. 5 Missouri Western – 12 pm

Women’s Game 6 – No. 3 Nebraska Kearney vs. No. 6 Northwest Missouri – 2:15 pm

Saturday, March 5 – Semifinals

Women’s Game 7 – Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 5 – 12 pm

Women’s Game 8 – Winner of Game 4 vs. Winner of Game 6 – 2:15 pm

Sunday, March 6 – Championship

Women’s Game 9 – Winner of Game 7 vs. Winner of Game 8 – 1 pm

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