No. 2 Bearcats defeat Lincoln to stay unbeaten

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MARYVILLE, Missouri – The Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team improved to 9-0 with an 85-78 MIAA-opening win over the Lincoln Blue Tigers in Bearcat Arena.

Redshirt freshman guard Trevor Hudgins tallied 22 points and handed out five assists, while sophomore forward Ryan Hawkins collected his fourth double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds.

Senior guard Joey Witthus poured in 15 second-half points after being held scoreless in the opening 20 minutes. Freshman guard Diego Bernard notched 13 points off the bench to help Northwest to a 26-6 advantage in bench scoring.

The Bearcats celebrated Christmas in the ‘Ville by starting the game having the crowd be silent until Northwest reached 10 points. Following a triple by Bernard with 12:24 left in the first half, the Bearcat crowd exploded to celebrate the Silent Night promotion.

Northwest took a 40-37 lead into the locker room.

Northwest started the second half on a 15-5 run to open up a 55-42 lead with Witthus scoring 11 of the 15 points. The Bearcats would lead by as many as 15 at 59-44 with 10:16 left in the game.

“We were able to push the lead out because we got some stops but then we shut it back off,” Northwest head coach Ben McCollum said. “We need to have a impose your will mentality and we didn’t have it a ton tonight. We were able to score enough. But give Lincoln some credit. They were fantastic tonight. They had a good game plan and ran sets. They worked the clock down and hit some tough shots.”

Lincoln refused to yield and cut the lead to five at 74-69 with 1:52 left. Witthus had a three-pointer blocked by Jonell Burton, but Bernard rebounded the miss and put it in with the shot clock winding down to put Northwest back up seven at 76-69.

Lincoln’s Terrance Smith hit three free throws with 35 seconds left to cut the lead back to four only to see Hudgins bury two at the free throw line. Lincoln cut it to four again on a layup by Burton with 17 seconds left. Hawkins sank a pair of free throws and Bernard drained one more to make it a seven-point win for the Bearcats, 85-78.

NOTES: Northwest has won eight straight MIAA openers … McCollum is 8-2 in MIAA openers … Northwest won the rebounding battle for the ninth straight game this season … Northwest shot 50.9 percent from the floor and went 23-of-29 at the foul line.

— Northwest Athletics —