Grizzlies drop road game to region rival Mineral Area College

The player puts the ball in the net for a dunk.
Sophomore guard Eric Lovett dunks the ball during a recent home game.

Park Hills, Mo. – Road wins in Region 16 have been hard to come by this season for the Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team.

And that didn't change Wednesday evening when they traveled to Park Hills to face the Mineral Area College Cardinals.

A series of defensive breakdowns coupled with offensive struggles cost the Grizzlies an 88-73 decision.

"Winning on the road is always difficult, no matter the team. That's basketball," Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Chris Popp said. "Once again, a team got it going from the perimeter on us. That's been a problem for us. We haven't defended the 3-point line well this season."

The game started as a back-and-forth affair with freshman guard Sardaar Calhoun leading the way for the Grizzlies. He scored 10 of the team's first 12 points.

The Grizzlies were up 35-31 late in first half when the Cardinals went on a 15-0 scoring run that propelled them to a 48-37 halftime advantage.

"Hats off to Mineral Area. They played the best game I've seen them play in all of the games I've watched them play this season," Popp said.

"On the flip side, we struggled to make shots across the board. After Sardaar's fast start, he cooled off, and so did we as a whole, outside of Eric (Lovett). We missed layups and open shots consistently. You have to be better to win on the road. We were not," he added.

Despite the double-digit deficit, the Grizzlies remained competitive in the second half and were in the game until the 2:30 minute mark.

"We had several good looks down the stretch that would have cut it to one or two possessions. They just didn't go in," the coach explained. "Offensively, we never really found a rhythm in the game."

Lovett was the exception. He scored 25 points for the night. Calhoun followed with 14, and sophomore forward Houston Johnson added 10.

The loss drops the Grizzlies' overall record to 19-10 and their Region 16 record to 5-3.

Regular season finale Saturday

They have one more game to pick up another region win when they host the Moberly Area Community College Greyhounds at 7 p.m. Saturday at the West Plains Civic Center.

Moberly is 23-6 overall and 7-0 in the region.

The Greyhounds also have the leading scorer in the country in Alonzo Verge, a guard who is averaging over 30 points per game.

"Saturday's game is a big one. Every time you play Moberly, it's a big one," Popp said. "If we take care of the ball and rebound, we will give ourselves a chance. These are always the keys against Moberly."

The Grizzlies also will honor their sophomores Saturday prior to the game. They include Lovett, Niekie Thomas, Johde Campbell, Burone Edwards, Houston Johnson, Henri Langton and Montel Stewart.

"We have a big group of sophomores who have done a lot for our program," Popp said. "We want to recognize their efforts."

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 www.njcaa.org/sports/mbkb/2018-19/div1/teams/MissouriStateUniversityWestPlains.