PITTSBURG — Pittsburg State never found an answer on the defensive end in the second half against Southwest Baptist, falling 83-71 to the Bearcats Saturday at John Lance Arena.
The Gorillas (8-8, 3-7 MIAA) held a sizable lead near the midway mark of the first half, but once the Bearcats gained the momentum in the second half, they never relinquished it. Southwest Baptist (8-6, 3-6 MIAA) held the lead for all of the second half, much of which was with a seven-point lead or higher.
“They out-played us tonight," Pittsburg State head coach Kevin Muff said. "They out-executed us and [Clark Sheehy] out-coached me. They were more hungry for this win than we were, and it showed in their level of execution and how they were defending us."
The loss was the Gorillas’ seventh in eight games.
PSU was led in scoring Josiah Gustafson, who finished the game with 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting. He finished one rebound shy of a double-double with nine.
Lamine Dieng and Trey Starks each had 14 points, while Javis Flynn finished with 13. Flynn had a team-high five assists in the loss.
Kai Woodfall had the top night for the Bearcats, scoring 17 points with five 3-pointers.
"[Woodfall], I thought, had a great game for them," Muff said. "He played solid, and is a guy who knows his role and plays it well."
Pitt State came out of the locker room trailing by two points, but the Bearcats moved the advantage to nine six minutes into the second half.
The Gorilla men played from behind from that moment forward, failing to make a serious run at the lead.
Southern Baptist built their lead as high as 16 points late in the second half of the conference win.
The first half between the Gorillas and Bearcats was a true game of runs, as the Gorillas built a nine-point lead with 6:32 to play following 11 unanswered points. From there, the PSU offense was non-existent.
Starks knocked down a jumper, which was followed by a three-point play from Dakota Jones to push the lead to seven points.
Flynn finished off the run with a score from the inside to put the Gorillas up 23-32.
With the game on the line early in the game, the Bearcats answered with 10 straight points to tip the momentum scales back in their favor heading into the locker room.
Cartier Dean had a pair of baskets on scores in the pain, which was followed by four points from Damian Progment. Theo Oghide closed the run out with a tipin basket to put SBU on top 36-34 with 1:47. The Bearcats held that two-point advantage into the half.
"I think they did a good job of responding to the run we did make," Muff said. "We didn't really run our offense very well down the stretch. That was a big stretch because it gave them confidence coming out in the second half."
The Gorillas match up with Missouri Southern following the completion of the women’s game on Jan. 16 at John Lance Arena.
"I'm excited about [the matchup with Southern]," Muff said. "I think it's a great rivalry Throw out the records. They're going to have rest under them and we're going to have rest under us. It's a great opportunity to get back into the second half of conference play."