The Pittsburg State men found the zone in the first half against Central Oklahoma and built a 45-22 halftime lead en route to a 81-70 win Thursday night in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association opener at Whetzel Court/John Lance Arena.
“I think our first half, we played as well offensively as we could,” Pitt State head coach Kevin Muff said. “Our team showed they were able to take the prep work that we did and we had a week to prepare for (Central Oklahoma). We knew they’d mix it up against us. I thought our guys responded well. Of course, you make shots and everything looks pretty good.
“I thought we were solid defensively. We forced some turnovers and we played aggressively. Along those lines, we didn’t have that look the second half and they kind of exploited our size differential inside. To be able to hold on and win a drawn-out game like that, you’ve got to be able to handle games like that in this conference. They did a good job.”
Freshman point guard Kaleb Porter stayed within the flow of the Pitt State offense after playing his worst collegiate game against William Jewell and made Central Oklahoma pay with five 3-point shots for 15 of his 17 total points before halftime. Porter finished with 22 points; perhaps most importantly, he managed three turnovers, one in the first half.
“Kaleb shot the ball extremely well,” Muff said. “In that same breath, our guys did a good job of finding him and Kaleb in return found some guys for some easy looks.”
Junior forward A.J. Adams continued his solid play from the second half and overtime of the William Jewell win, totaling 11 points and six rebounds alone in the first half. No. 20 ended with a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds, shooting 6-7 from the floor.
“In the first half, I think everybody was fresh and eager to play the first conference game,” Adams said. “Second half kind of slowed down. We need to put it all together and learn how to play a complete game.”
Pitt State gained its halftime lead behind scoring runs like 11-0, 7-0, and 8-0 before halftime. The Gorillas scored the final eight points of the half on a highlight reel pass from Sam Pugh to Adams for a highlight reel layup and Porter's fourth and fifth trifectas.
The Gorillas came out a little flat after halftime and by the 14:48 mark, Central Oklahoma outscored Pitt State 12-5 and the lead was 50-34. The Bronchos scored five more before Pitt State would score again.
“We came out first half ready to play and in the second half, I think we relaxed because we had a large lead,” Porter said. “We can’t do that.”
Page 2 of 3 - Pitt State reached the bonus at 13:18 and the double bonus at 12:05 as the flow of the game sometimes bordered on catatonic after halftime. The Gorillas, conference leaders in both free throw makes and free throw attempts, finished shooting 34-49 with seven players attempting at least four. By comparison, Pitt State only attempted 15 field goals after halftime.
“It’s tough to get into a flow in a situation like that,” Adams said. “But we practice situations like that and we’ve got to be ready.”
A pair of 3-pointers by Courtney Ingram helped Pitt State maintain its lead despite several missed free throws and turnovers, and a driving basket from Pugh made it 70-54. However, the Central Oklahoma pressure defense managed to create opportunities to extend the game and had it to 76-68 in the final 90 seconds.
Marky Nolen played his first game Thursday night after serving a two-game suspension from a technical foul against Newman. Nolen scored eight points and had four rebounds, three assists, four turnovers and three steals.
“Marky’s an energy guy,” Muff said. “(Energy’s) one thing he does bring and sometimes he gets a little emotional on the floor. He cares and he wants to do well. He makes everybody else elevate defensively to the level that he plays on defense. He’s aggressive to the basket. He’s essential. He’s been through the battles, been through the wars and I thought he kept himself in check tonight.”
Transfer forward James Watson had 10 points, four rebounds and two blocked shots for the 1-6 Bronchos. Watson played one year at Washington State, one year at Cowley County and one game for Kansas State before heading for Edmond, Okla. Spencer Smith had 10 points and five rebounds. Central Oklahoma scored 48 second-half points.
Pitt State improves to 6-1 and 1-0 in the MIAA. The Gorillas play their first official road game Saturday against MIAA newcomer Lindenwood in St. Charles, Mo.
“They’re a team similar to William Jewell,” Muff said. “Probably a little bigger team than Jewell. They run a lot of motion offense and we’re going to have work through a lot of screens. We’re going to have to guard extended possessions. That worries me a little bit.
“Offensively, I think we’ll be fine if we continue to shoot the ball well from the 3-point line and if the inside guys can do a good job scoring. I thought A.J. did a good job tonight. I like the depth and versatility of being able to play a lot of guys. I think that will help us on the road.”
“We’re going to be ready for it,” Porter said. “Coach will have us go in early tonight and rest up before we leave early in the morning.”
Page 3 of 3 - The men and the women depart today for St. Charles at 11 a.m.
GORILLAS 81, BRONCHOS 70
CENTRAL OKLAHOMA (70) — James Watson 4-7 2-4 10, Spencer Smith 2-5 5-6 10, Jamell Cormier 3-8 2-5 9, Josh Gibbs 4-11 1-2 9, Rico Hogan 3-6 1-1 9, Seth Heckart 3-7 0-0 8, June Carter 2-8 3-6 7, Josh Davis 2-5 0-0 4, Christian Huffman 1-1 0-0 2, Gabe Houston 0-1 2-2 2, Cal Andrews 0-2 0-0 0, Garrett Hermanski 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 24-61 16-26 70.
PITTSBURG STATE (81) — Kaleb Porter 5-7 7-9 22, A.J. Adams 6-7 5-9 17, Courtney Ingram 4-8 6-9 16, Sam Pugh 3-9 3-4 9, Marky Nolen 1-3 6-8 8, JaVon McGee 1-5 2-4 4, Jake Bullard 0-0 3-4 3, Terrell Eaddy 0-3 2-2 2, Denton Hays 0-1 0-0 0, Rico Pierrevilus 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 20-44 34-49 81.
Halftime — PSU 45, UCO 22. 3-point goals — UCO 6-21 (Hogan 2-5, Heckart 2-6, Cormier 1-1, Smith 1-3, Gibbs 0-3, Carter 0-2, Andrews 0-1), PSU 7-14 (Porter 5-7, Ingram 2-2, Pugh 0-2, Eaddy 0-2, Nolen 0-1). Rebounds — UCO 32 (Carter 6), PSU 41 (Adams 11). Assists — UCO 7 (Davis 3), PSU 12 (Nolen, Eaddy 3). Turnovers — UCO 20, PSU 23. Steals — UCO 5, PSU 7 (Nolen 3). Blocked shots — UCO 2, PSU 1. Personal fouls — UCO 30, PSU 22. Technical fouls — none. Fouled out — Carter, UCO; Smith, UCO. A — 1,083.