In his postgame interview after a 95-44 thrashing of Southwestern (Kan.) College, Pittsburg State head men’s basketball coach Gene Iba started out by saying that he “thought we came out and played well.”

In his postgame interview after a 95-44 thrashing of Southwestern (Kan.) College, Pittsburg State head men’s basketball coach Gene Iba started out by saying that he “thought we came out and played well.”

Somewhat of an understatement.

Unless you take the Gorillas’ previous nine games into account.

The Gorillas have had a tendency to start games very slow only to rally back and make a game out of it in the second half.

Last Sunday, the Gorillas utilized a solid defensive effort coupled with offensive execution to put together their first full game of basketball.

Despite being 6-4 into the holiday break, the Gorillas have had their fair share of struggles.
Take for example their third game of the season against NAIA opponent St. Mary’s.

Pitt State fell behind 21-11 in the first half, only to close the gap to two at 27-25 and even tie the game in the second half but the Gorillas were plagued by 38 percent shooting and just 36 rebounds in the 71-67 loss.

The next night the Gorillas, again, shot just 38 percent from the field in a 98-94 loss to Evangel.
In their MIAA season-opener at Missouri Western, it was the same song.

The Gorillas got behind, battled back but could not close out the game.

Pitt State fans have been waiting for a reason to get excited this season.

There have been times where the Gorillas have provided that.

With the workman-like attitudes of seniors Carlos Taylor and Spencer Magana along with the sometimes-solid inside play of TJ Stukes, Rodney Grace and Ivan Evans, the Gorillas have, what seems to be, the necessary tools to be a team that makes a run at the upper echelon of the MIAA.

However, PSU has been battling team chemistry and execution in the early part of the season.

The Gorillas have the potential to put teams away with smiles on their faces.

That potential just has not been reached yet.

Time is of the essence for the Gorillas as they get into the meat of their conference schedule next week with a trip to Central Missouri and back home against Northwest Missouri State.

Getting players to gel does not happen overnight, but time is running out because once conference play begins, that time to gel is over.

What exactly do the Gorillas need to do?

While newcomers Stukes and Evans have shown aptitude for rebounding, they also have to become tuned in to doing the little things like picking, screening and creating havoc for other big men in the league.

Fellow fresh face Chris Wilson has range and all the capabilities to be a solid guard/forward but there has to be a degree of consistency.

With 14 members on the team and all clambering for playing time, each player has to learn their roles on the court and on the bench.

Now, with that said, the Gorillas showed signs of just what kind of team they can be on Sunday.

They shut the lights out early on a clearly overmatched Southwestern squad that almost seemed too ready for their Christmas break.

Even in an 82-76 loss to No. 4 Southwest Baptist, the Gorillas proved that they can run with prolific teams in the conference, holding MIAA player of the week stalwart Matt Rogers to just 15 points, which is well below his season average of 23.5 points per game.

The tools are there and the potential is not lacking, but it won’t be until MIAA play begins that we see just what kind of moxie the Gorillas really do have.

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