When it comes down to it, rebounding could make all the difference when the Pittsburg State men’s basketball team travel to face Truman State at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Kirksville, Mo.

When it comes down to it, rebounding could make all the difference when the Pittsburg State men’s basketball team travel to face Truman State at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Kirksville, Mo.
That, on paper, favors the Gorillas (8-10, 3-8 MIAA).
Currently, Pitt State is second in the conference in rebounding offense (40.2) and fifth in rebounding margin (+2.4) whereas the Bulldogs (6-12, 1-10 MIAA) have had struggles on the glass.
Truman is 10th in the league in rebounding offense (34.8) and eighth in rebounding margin (+0.9).
“It has been one of the brighter spots of what we do,” said PSU head coach Gene Iba. “In games that we have played well, it has been very good.”
It was the post play that helped the Gorillas in their last meeting with Truman as Ivan Evans led the Gorillas with 20 points as Pitt State knocked off the Bulldogs 81-73 at John Lance Arena on Dec. 6.
“Their post play beat us last time,” said SBU head coach Jack Schrader. “For us, we never know who is going to step up and our only consistency has been our inconsistency.”
The Gorillas have TJ Stukes and Rodney Grace who are among the league leaders in rebounding. Stukes comes into tonight’s game with an 8.0 rebound per game average while Grace is picking up 5.5 rebounds per game.
And, the Gorillas have an opportunity to take a game from a team that has notably struggled this season. The Bulldogs have won just one game in their last 13.
“We go through stretches where rebuild and we take our lumps,” Schrader said. “You prepare every game to try to get better and hope it starts clicking.”
The one thorn for the Gorillas is the fact that they are back on the road — where they are 0-5 in the MIAA this season.
“It is always tough coming up here,” Iba said. “Everybody goes on the road and most are having trouble on the road.”
And Schrader said that this time could be different from the last time the two teams squared off.
“The first time was early and they were an unknown to us,” Schrader said. “We did not know much about Evans and he did good things against us.
“We know a little bit more about them and we have changed some things about us to get better,” Schrader said. “It still depends on us as opposed to worrying about the other team.”
The Bulldogs do have scoring threats in Banks Estridge and Ethan Freeman. Freeman had 15 points in the loss to the Gorillas while Estridge had 14 — both over their scoring averages for the season.
Both teams are coming off losses on Saturday.
Truman had some chances late to erase a 17-point second half deficit on Saturday at Missouri Southern but came up just short in a 57-51 loss to the Lions. Two turnovers and two missed three-point attempts in the final minute prevented the Bulldogs from picked up the win in Joplin.
Alex Henderson, who matched a career high with six field goals, scored 14 of his game-high 15 points in the second half, while senior Todd Kulage earned his first start and played a career-high 35 minutes for the Bulldogs.
Carlos Taylor, who is fourth in the MIAA in scoring at 17.4 points per game, had 21 in the loss to Missouri Western. Taylor was 6 of 15 from the floor and made all seven free throw attempts. Spencer Magana added 16 while Stukes and Grace each chipped in 10.
But, Iba would rather focus on the Gorillas’ performance in their 88-86 overtime win against Nebraska-Omaha.
“The fact that we played a week ago as well as we did is a big positive,” Iba said. “We played that well a week ago and we need to forget the one in between.”
This time, it will be rebounding that could be the deciding factor.
“They are a very patient team and what you can’t do is have a lot of offensive boards so that they don’t turn a 30-second possession into a 60-second possession,” Iba said.

Matthew Clark can be reached at matthew.clark@morningsun.net or at 620-231-2600, Ext. 140