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  • Big day today at John Lance Arena

  • "The Gold Rush" brings up different associations.

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  • "The Gold Rush" brings up different associations.
    The Gold Rush of 1849, a significant event in American history.
    "The Gold Rush," a great 1925 Charlie Chaplin silent comedy.
    "The Gold Rush," in Jan. 5, 2013 terms, means a Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association doubleheader between the Northwest Missouri Bearcats and the host Pittsburg State Gorillas at Whetzel Court/John Lance Arena.
    The Pitt State and the Northwest Missouri women are in a seven-way tie for second place at 2-1. Washburn stands alone at 1-0 in the MIAA, the only undefeated team left in a deep MIAA.
    The Pitt State and the Northwest Missouri men sit in a three-way tie with MIAA newcomer Northeastern State at 3-0. Washburn, 1-0 in conference play, also owns an undefeated MIAA record.
    It should be a golden event today: free "Gold Rush" T-shirts to first 2,000 fans, free pancake breakfast from 10-11 a.m., the official floor dedication to the Whetzels at 10:30 a.m., and the women tip at 11:30 a.m.
    Never mind those CBS Sports Network cameras. The doubleheader will be shown on CBS College Sports, Channel 260 in Pittsburg, as the NCAA Division II "National Games of the Week."
    “We just talked about that,” Pitt State head coach Kevin Muff said. “I’m not downplaying it. It’s good for the university, it’s good for the city of Pittsburg and for our conference too. . . . I can tell them all I want but I can guarantee you they’re excited about being on TV. At the same time, it’s about us taking a step in the right direction and continuing to get better. It’s a big game.”
    The Pitt State women (8-3) have mostly been led by a trio of sophomores: forward Lizzy Jeronimus, guard Morgan Westhoff and guard Hailey Roderique.
    Jeronimus averages 19.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists.
    Westhoff, the leading bench scorer and the second-highest scorer on the PSU team, averages 9.5 points and her 12 points against Nebraska-Kearney proved critical.
    “Morgan  Westhoff did a really great job for us tonight,” Pitt State head coach Lane Lord said Thursday night. “She's done it pretty much all year for us. When she has an opportunity, she knocks down big shots and I believe she hit two or three there in the second half that  were huge for us, to give us a little separation. She's really improved and I think she's one of the top 3-point shooters in the conference.”
    Roderique averages 8.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists and totals a team-high 15 steals.
    Senior post Lauren Brown and freshman Kylie Gafford have combined for 34 blocked shots, Brown 18 and Gafford 16.
    Senior guard Drew Roberts and junior guard Alexa Bordewick heated up a little bit against Nebraska-Kearney, something that proved encouraging to Lord.
    Page 2 of 3 - “It was good to see Alexa knock a couple down,” Lord said. “She's been a great leader for us, she did a great job defensively tonight, talking on transition defense and getting people in the right spots. But for her to knock a couple down, that's huge for us. Drew hit three good pull-up jumpers and we need her to get going. They've both been suffering from those ankle injuries. It's hurt them a little bit.”
    The Northwest women (8-3) dropped their first MIAA contest Thursday night to Missouri Southern, 64-55. The Bearcats had won four straight games and their first two conference games against Lindenwood (69-40) and Nebraska-Kearney (67-56).
    Balanced would be one word to describe the Bearcats.
    Ashleigh Nelson leads four scorers averaging double figures with 11.5 points per game, followed by Meridee Scott (11.4), Maggie Marnin (10.5) and Annie Mathews (10.2). Tember Schechinger (9.5), Monique Stevens (6.2) and Ashley Thayer (4.8) offer more offensive firepower.
    Mathews leads Northwest with 7.5 rebounds per game, including two games of 11 (SMSU, Nebraska-Kearney).
    The Bearcats have struggled away from home — 6-1 at home, 1-2 road.
    The Pitt State men (10-1) have won seven straight contests since a 89-79 home loss to Newman.
    The Gorillas have still made more free throws than their opponents have attempted this season. Pitt State: 258-355, .727. Opponents: 167-249, .671. In three MIAA games, those numbers are Pitt State 72-101, .713 and opponents 44-65, .677. Any way you slice it this season, the Gorillas are dominating their opponents in free throws.
    Four players average double figures for the Gorillas: Kaleb Porter (17.1), Courtney Ingram (11.6), JaVon McGee (11.0) and A.J. Adams (10.5). Four other Gorillas average at least 5.0 points: Marky Nolen (8.4), Rico Pierrevilus (7.2), Sam Pugh (5.5) and Jake Bullard (5.0).
    McGee continued his offensive ascendancy with a game-high 18 points against Nebraska-Kearney on Thursday night.
    Freshman guard Bullard reached double figures for the first time in his young career with 11 points against the Lopers.
    Nolen continued his steady all-around play Thursday: seven points, four rebounds, four assists and six steals; playing within himself since a two-game absence earlier in the season, Nolen has fouled out from one game this season. He’s a critical on-ball defender for the Gorillas.
    Porter had one of his worst 3-point shooting performances against Nebraska-Kearney, 2-9. When the Bronchos of Central Oklahoma zoned Pitt State early in December, Porter came through with five 3-point shots and effectively busted the zone. Muff said Thursday night that he does not expect zone from Northwest today.
    The Northwest men (10-2) remained unbeaten in conference with a 69-68 overtime win Thursday night over Missouri Southern. DeAngelo Hailey knocked down a short jumper for the win.
    “It’s going to be a very intense game,” Muff said. “Northwest, obviously, defending conference champions and the success they’ve had with their program. They’re a physical team and they kind of like to play the way we like to play. It’s going to be a good matchup, a good test, a good challenge early in the conference race.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Northwest — without All-MIAA point guard DeShaun Cooper (knee tendinitis) so far this season — played its first official road game of the season Thursday night and the Bearcats play six of their first seven January conference games away from Bearcat Arena.
    Three players score in double figures for Northwest: Hailey (14.5), Dillon Starzl (13.8) and Alex Sullivan (12.6). Hailey, an athletic perimeter player, came to Maryville via Kankakee CC (Ill.) and hails from Detroit. Starzl, a big man inside (6-8, 250 pounds), leads Northwest with 5.5 rebounds per game. Matt Wallace leads Northwest with 71 assists.
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