PITTSBURG — While the Pittsburg State women’s team has been enjoying one of the best seasons in program history, the men’s team has had an exact opposite experience, winning just four games by mid February.
Not much has gone right for the Gorillas and last week was more of the same, as they dropped a pair of games and head into the home stretch playing for pride.
“We’re looking for areas we improved upon,” PSU head coach Kevin Muff said. “We were good offensively in the first half against Missouri Southern and gave a pretty complete-game effort against central Missouri. We were also terrific defensively in the first half against Southwest Baptist.”
Among other things, defense has been what the Gorillas have been focusing on this week in practice.
“We have to find ways to eliminate runs by other teams,” Muff said. “They usually occur midway through the second half. Fatigue and rotations of players are a problem at times. If we a strong showing in games, we can eliminate or find answers to the runs that other teams put up against us.”
With No. 1 Northwest Missouri coming to town on Thursday — with tipoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m., the — Gorillas will have to stay focused on defense in order to compete.
“Northwest is efficient, well-disciplined and well-coached,” Muff said. “It starts with their leader Justin Pitts. We need to try to minimize his impact with the ball in his hands, take good shots in our half-court offense and not turn the ball over. We also have to compete on the glass and take away second and third-chance opportunities for their offense.”
Following Thursday’s matchup, the Gorillas will host Missouri Southern at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.
“MSSU is another team that is similar to us in many ways,” Muff said. “We will have to give one of our best efforts and performances of the year from our starters and reserves. They have a distinct size advantage and we will need to defend the paint and rebound well against them.”
While the Gorillas haven’t had the best season, it’s not for lack of talent, as there’s plenty of potential to go around.
“Isaiah Hicks and Elijah Gaines are two of our most capable and productive players, but they would be the first to tell you that they need to play better,” Muff said. “R.J. Pair at the point, has made some progress and played well against Southwest Baptist. He’s also become more confident in leading at the point guard position.”
With a limited time left, Pitt State looks to maximize the opportunity before them.
“We are gaining valuable experience with some key players and they continue to improve,” Muff said. “Consistency and leadership needs to become more evident in tight-game situations and players need to step up when needed. That’s on both ends of the floor offensively and defensively.”
Although the final four games of the season won’t determine the fate of the Gorillas, they are still determined to end on a positive note.
“These guys have been resilient,” Muff said. “They’ve shown unbelievable work ethic and attitude to take on the next challenge. WE are looking forward to the next game and the opportunity it presents.”
— 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.