By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
The Missouri Western men’s (8-1) and women’s basketball (2-6) teams are on the road for two games this week.
The Griffons play at Nebraska-Kearney Thursday. The women tip at 5:30 (5:05 pregame on KFEQ) and the men at 7:30 p.m. Both teams then head to Fort Hays State Saturday. The women will play at 2 (1:30 KFEQ pregame) and the men at 4.
The Griffon men capped a three-game homestand last Saturday with a 74-67 win over then No. 5 Washburn, giving them four straight wins.
Missouri Western, as a result, jumped six spots in the national polls this week to No. 16, and are in first place in the MIAA Conference standings after wins over Emporia State and Washburn last week.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Griffon coach Will Martin said. “I’m excited they were able to experience that environment (Saturday against Washburn). Shoutout to Griff nation. We’re at 25% capacity, but we had a great crowd and everyone was socially distanced.”
Missouri Western will face a Nebraska-Kearney team (3-6) fresh off of a road win at Central Missouri last Saturday. The Lopers have won two of their last three games after a 1-5 start, and they are 2-3 at home this season.
This is the first of two meetings between the two teams as they are scheduled to close the regular season with a matchup in St. Joseph on February 27.
“They’re going to be tough to beat,” Martin said of the Lopers. “They’re hard to play at home. They play with a ton of confidence at their place. Every player on the floor for them is capable from three.”
The Griffons will then see Fort Hays State on Saturday for the second time in two weeks. The Griffons beat the Tigers in St. Joe on Jan. 2, 84-76.
Missouri Western is 4-21 all-time when playing in Hays, KS.
“That’s a tough team historically to play in this league,” Martin said. “I have a ton of respect for how they do things there.”
Fort Hays State is looking to snap a three-game losing skid after losses last week at Central Missouri and Lincoln. They also play No. 3 Northwest Missouri State at home Thursday.
The Missouri Western women, meanwhile, will try and snap a five-game losing streak when they play at No. 5 Nebraska-Kearney (8-0) and Fort Hays State (6-2) – both of whom sit in the top three of the MIAA Conference standings.
The Lopers, the only unbeaten women’s team left in the MIAA, returned all five starters from a team that went 26-6 a year ago.
“I picked Kearney to win the league,” Griffons’ women’s head coach Candi Whitaker said. “When you have everybody back, in a year like this, you’re starting with a 10-point advantage over everyone because of that.”
MWSU had their game with Emporia State last Thursday postponed with due to COVID-19 protocol within the ESU program, leaving the Griffons with three weeks between games when they played Washburn last Saturday.
The Ichabods jumped out to an 18-2 lead and won, 61-49.
Missouri Western will then play Fort Hays State (6-2) on Saturday for the first time this season. The Tigers return two starters from a team that went 23-7 last season and qualified for the NCAA Tournament.
“Fort Hays is good,” Whitaker said. “They play hard, they defend very well. They’re going to work for everything.”
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