ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Pittsburg State men’s basketball earned its first conference win of the season after beating Missouri Western State 70-53 Thursday.
The Gorillas (3-10, 1-4 MIAA) gained separation midway through the first half, but it was a 10-0 run to kick off the second half which staked Pitt State to a double-digit lead they wouldn’t surrender.
Four Gorillas finished in double-figure scoring, with R.J. Pair’s 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting leading the way. Pair added three rebounds, led PSU with three assists and had a steal in the win.
Creighton Brinker and Isaiah Hicks each score 13 points, while Jaxon Holden contributed 10 points in the win. Hicks and Brinker each led Pitt State in rebounds, with five.
Pitt State found plenty of high-percentage open looks and converted continuously, shooting 60 percent from the field as a team.
Seth Bonifas’ 14 points led the way for the Griffons, who got 10 points from T.J. Evans to finish with a pair of players scoring in double figures.
The Gorilla men won the rebounding battle, 33-25.
Strong play over the middle minutes of the first half was the catalyst the Gorilla men’s seven-point, 30-23 lead by the intermission.
Pitt State used a 12-0 run starting at the 13:55 mark to build a 13-point advantage with 8:17 to play.
Lucas Wilson came off the bench to provide a spark for the Gorillas, connecting three consecutive trips down the floor to put PSU up 17-9 with 10:52 on the clock.
Pair drilled a 3-pointer, and Brinker followed it up with a score inside to finish off the run.
The Griffons cut the lead down to seven by the half, but a 10-0 run early in the second half by the Gorillas cushioned the PSU advantage to 17 points.
Pair kicked off the run with a mid-range jumper, which was followed up by a Brinker triple to put PSU on top 37-25 with 17:56 on the clock.
Pair connected from the perimeter to give PSU back-to-back makes from long range, and Holden sank two from the stripe to put PSU up 17, 42-25, four minutes into the second half.
Pitt State’s lead reach 20 points, 47-27, on an Elijah Gaines’ jumper, but MWSU quickly made it a ballgame after scoring nine unanswered to get within 11, 47-36, near the midway mark of the second half.
Bonifas hit a jumper, and two free throws from Jason Jones made the score 47-31, with Joe Hamilton making a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 13.
Bonifas finished off the run with a score inside.
The Pitt State men got 3-balls from Brinker and Holden to push the lead to 19, 57-38, with 8:11 to play.
The lead never dipped below 15 points for the Gorillas, who closed out the win with relative ease.
The Gorilla men travel to face Northwest Missouri State at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Maryville, Missouri.
-- Lucas Davis is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on twitter @LDsportswriter.