Grizzlies now 6-3 with wins at Thanksgiving tournament

Sophomore guard Eric Lovett (No. 4) gets ready to dunk the ball during a basketball game earlier this season at the West Plains Civic Center. (Missouri State-West Plains Photo)
Sophomore guard Eric Lovett (No. 4) gets ready to dunk the ball during a basketball game earlier this season at the West Plains Civic Center. (Missouri State-West Plains Photo)

West Plains, Mo. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team will take a 6-3 record into tonight's game against Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia after picking up two wins this past weekend at the Mega Motorsports Thanksgiving Classic.

The Grizzlies defeated Murray State College from Tishomingo, Oklahoma, 89-77 Friday evening and Southwest Tennessee Community College from Memphis 80-77 Saturday evening at the West Plains Civic Center.

"These were two solid wins against two good teams," Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Chris Popp said.

The Grizzlies needed the wins after dropping two games the previous weekend at the Cowley County Community College Classic in Kansas.

But a week full of tough practices emphasizing defensive work made an impact. The Grizzlies bounced back from a 3-point deficit at halftime against Murray State to win by 12 points, and they were able to get key stops late against Southwest Tennessee to seal that win.

"We started out both games well, then, as we have all season, we got comfortable. We lost the sense of urgency you have to have when you're on the court," Popp said.

"But our guys responded well after halftime and throughout the games as we addressed issues and adjusted, and that's a positive," he added. "They've found a way to win close games. At the end of the game, we made free throws, took care of the ball and did what we needed to do defensively."

Lovett leads offensive charge

Sophomore guard Eric Lovett led the Grizzlies offensively both nights, scoring 32 points against Murray State and 20 against Southwest Tennessee.

"Eric had a huge weekend. He's playing good basketball, not forcing things. He's being efficient," Popp said.

Sophomore forward Burone Edwards also played well, scoring 12 points against Murray State and 16 against Southwest Tennessee. "Burone played well all weekend. He continues to be that steady piece, the cog in the wheel that moves us," the coach said.

Sophomore guard Johde Campbell picked up key free throws late against Southwest Tennessee, scoring 7 of his 13 points in the contest from the charity stripe.

Other Grizzlies scoring in double digits over the weekend include freshman guard Sardaar Calhoun, who had 14 points against Murray State and 15 points against Southwest Tennessee; and freshman point guard Dravon Clayborn, who had 10 points against Murray State.

"That's what I like about this team and these wins. It's not just one or two players making plays. If that were the case, we'd then live and die on their play. We are getting contributions from a lot of places, and that's how you win consistently moving forward," Popp said.

Tonight, the Grizzlies will face another test from the Rangers. "They play fast and make it chaotic. We will have to match their energy," Popp said. "We will have to get back defensively, take care of the ball and execute offensively."

Popp thanked Russ Gant and everyone at Mega Motorsports for sponsoring the tournament. "We appreciate the support we receive from our sponsors like Russ and Mega Motorsports," he 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.