PITTSBURG — Just when the Pittsburg State men's basketball season appeared to be turning around, the Gorillas fell victims to Lincoln's quality shooting in Thursday's 77-69 loss to the Blue Tigers at John Lance Arena.
Pitt State managed to climb back in the ballgame several times after the Blue Tigers appeared to be pulling away, but still took the loss regardless of the quality effort.
"It was frustrating,” PSU head coach Kevin Muff said. “We weren’t ready for their zone, which caused us all kinds of problems offensively. It was a good coaching move on his part. Some of our inexperience, lack of leadership on the court and the ability to get the ball moved inside-out like we need to against the zone to beat it.”
Pitt State hit the ground running, taking a quick 7-0 lead after R.J. Pair scored the opening points on a 3-pointer, then followed it up with back-to-back baskets.
Lincoln took over from there, as an 8-3 Blue Tiger run cut their deficit to 10-8.
An Elijah Gaines’ 3-pointer and a free throw by Lucas Wilson extended the Gorillas' lead to 14-1 at the 13-minute mark, but Lincoln managed to score 17 unanswered points to take a 28-14 lead with just under 10 minutes left in the first half.
Pitt State snapped the scoring drought with two points from Christian Edmondson with just over eight minutes before halftime.
The Edmondson bucket sparked a 7-0 run which brought the Gorillas back to life, pushing the score to 28-21.
Lincoln seemed to have full control of the game after a 12-2 run increased the lead to 44-27.
Pitt State managed to get back into the ballgame with an 8-0 run in the final two minutes of the first half to go into the locker room trailing by nine, 44-35.
The Blue Tigers again threaten to pull away in the opening minutes of the second half, outscoring the Gorillas 15-6 to extend the lead to 59-40.
Pittsburg regrouped after a quick timeout and got back within 10 points, 59-49, after scoring nine unanswered points, which forced a Blue Tiger timeout.
The nine consecutive points included three points by Jaxon Holden and two points apiece from Gaines, Pair and Jordan Phelps.
After the break, Lincoln hit a 3-pointer with 11 minutes in regulation, which was the start of an 11-4 run to cushion the Blue Tigers’ lead to 70-53.
Pitt State made one last push to get back into the contest, with a seven consecutive points at the two-minute mark to come to within 72-64, but Lincoln was able to maintain the lead by hitting free throws following intentional fouls.
Gaines was the scoring leader for the Gorillas with 17 points, while Holden finished close behind with 14.
Phelps was also playing well, pouring in 11 points.
The Gorillas will take the floor again at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday against Lindenwood inside John Lance Arena.
-- Jordan Buckamneer is a sports reporter of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @jbuckamneer.