3/10/2019 | Men’s Basketball
By David Boyce – MIAA:
In front of one of the largest crowds to watch an MIAA Men’s Basketball Tournament game at Municipal Auditorium, Northwest Missouri State beat Washburn 82-53 Sunday for its fourth straight conference tournament title.
Nearly 5,000 fans saw the Bearcats do what they have been doing all season. They played great defense, moved the ball around on offense and hit three-pointers. And when the long-range bombs stopped falling, the Bearcats drove to the basket.
The potent combination is why Northwest Missouri will take a 32-0 record into the Central Regional of the NCAA Division II Tournament. Washburn, 24-7, will likely get a bid into the tournament and the Ichabods might get another crack at Northwest.
“We tried to focus on what we do,” said Northwest Missouri senior Joey Witthus, who scored 25 points and was selected as tournament MVP. “We wanted to come out and play hard. Credit to Washburn. They played amazing. They will be in the region. I am sure we will see them again.”
Northwest Missouri established a new MIAA record with four straight conference tournament titles.
“It means a lot for our program,” Northwest Missouri coach Ben McCollum said. “It shows the culture our kids have built and the pride all the alumni take. To be in this difficult of a league and win in a tournament setting like that says a lot about the kids in our program.”
On Sunday, Washburn came out confident. Senior Javion Blake opened the game with a three-pointer. The Ichabods also held a 7-4 lead after a basket by sophomore Tyler Geiman. Blake finished with 17 points.
After those nice early moments for Washburn, the Bearcats took control of the game.
Northwest went ahead 9-7 on a three-pointer by Witthus. Washburn managed to stay close over the next few minutes and trailed only 19-17 after a three-pointer by Blake.
The game started to slip away from Washburn with under 4 minutes left in the first half. A three-pointer by junior Ryan Welty gave Northwest a double-digit lead at 32-21 with 3:32 left. The shot caused Washburn to call timeout and regroup.
“Our offense was fantastic today,” McCollum said. “Today, we moved the ball and exposed the mismatch, but it was in the flow.”
After the timeout, Northwest got a stop and then Witthus made a two-point field goal for a 34-21 lead.
“We tried to play our game and play as hard as we could,” Witthus said.
By halftime, Northwest held a commanding 39-25 lead. Washburn had a brief moment when it looked like it was going to cause a few anxious moments in the second half. The Ichabods closed to 42-30.
But the Bearcats got hot again and put the game away with still 14 minutes left. It started with freshman Trevor Hudgins drilling a three-pointer. After Witthus hit two free throws, Hudgins hit another three-pointer.
Feeding off that momentum, Northwest freshman Diego Bernard got a steal and raced down court for an acrobatic layup. Washburn called timeout. Northwest responded with a stop and then another three-pointer by Hudgins, which ballooned the Bearcats’ lead to 55-30.
“This is amazing, especially with the team we have now,” said Trevor Hudgins, who finished with 27 points and eight assists. “This team came from nothing. They said we lost a bunch of seniors, but we saw the group of 11 we have is hard working.”
2019 All-MIAA Tournament Team
Joey Witthus, Northwest Missouri (MVP)
Javion Blake, Washburn
Trevor Hudgins, Northwest Missouri
Julius Jackson, Emporia State
Tyler Geiman, Washburn