(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) – The Central Missouri Mules outlasted Pittsburg State 69-63 in a tough, physical battle at the MIAA Tournament at Municipal Auditorium Thursday night.
UCM advances to Saturday afternoon’s semi-finals at 2:15 p.m. where they will play the winner of Washburn and Central Oklahoma.
The Mules (20-7) jumped out to a 16-8 lead nearly eight minutes into the game. The Gorillas battled back using a 17-4 run to take a 25-20 lead with 2:10 left in the first half. The Mules came right back to tie the game at 25 on five straight points from Widgett Washington. The Gorillas went back in front 27-25 on a layup by JaVon McGee.
Matt Webb tied the game with under a minute to play in the game and a pair of free throws by Dominique Long gave UCM a 29-27 lead with 26 seconds left in the half. Jake Bullard made 1-of-2 at the line for PSU with two seconds left and the Mules went into halftime with a 29-28 lead.
Both teams came out firing in the second half matching field goals nearly every trip down the court. Alex Dean’s layup out of the gate gave UCM a three-point advantage, but A.J. Adams came right back with a driving layup for the Gorillas make it a one point game again.
Charles Hammork hit a driving layup the next trip down the court only to see Adams hit a jumper on the other end and the Mules led 33-32 with not even one minute gone by in the second half.
Dean hit another layup to give the Mules a three-point lead, but three straight points from McGee tied the game at 37-all with 17:07 to play in the game. The game remained tied until the 15:15 mark when Matt Webb tipped in a missed layup and put UCM back in front.
A pair of free throws by Marky Nolen and a jumper from McGee put the Gorillas in front 41-39 with 14:21 left, but Lance Beckwith hit a three-pointer from the right wing to put UCM back in front 42-41 with 12:27 to play in the game. Kaleb Porter hit a three with just under 12 to play to give the lead back to Pitt State, but a jumper by Webb sparked an 11-0 run, that included three straight steals and buckets, to give the Mules a 53-44 lead with 9:48 to play in regulation.
UCM pushed the lead to 10 two different times, including 59-49 with 7:29 on the clock, but the Gorillas used an 8-0 run of their own to pull within two at 59-57 with 5:09 to play.
Webb scored a traditional three-point play with just over four minutes to play to give UCM a 62-57 lead. A jumper by McGee cut the lead to three before Washington made 1-of-2 free throws to give the Mules a 63-59 lead with 2:22 to play. McGee hit another jumper to cut the lead to two. The Gorillas had the ball down a pair, but Hammork got another steal and turned it into a fast-break dunk to give UCM a 65-61 lead with 1:24 to play.
Courtney Ingram’s tip-in with 15 seconds left pulled PSU to within two once again, but Dominique Long and Hammork each hit a pair from the foul line to ice the game.
Webb led UCM with 15 points and eight rebounds. Washington had 12 points and five assists and Dean had 12 points as well. Hammork finished with 11 points too.
The Mules shot 40 percent from the field, 25-of-62, but made just 5-of-23 three-point attempts for 22 percent. Central Missouri was 14-of-22 at the foul line for 64 percent.
McGee led Pittsburg State with game-highs 22 points and 11 boards. Adams, Bullard and Porter all finished with 11 for PSU, who shot 37 percent for the game, 21-of-57. The Gorillas were 4-of-19 from beyond the arc for 21 percent and made 17-of-23 from the charity stripe for 74 percent.
The Gorillas out-rebounded UCM 39-34 and had a 14-4 advantage in second chance points, but the Mules held a 35-26 lead in points in the paint and forced 15 PSU turnovers into 24 points.
The Mules move on to the MIAA Tournament semifinals Saturday afternoon at 2:15 p.m. They will play the winner of No. 3 seed Washburn and No. 6 seed Central Oklahoma.
The game can be heard live on 1450 KOKO, 98.5 The Bar and www.warrensburgradio.com with Shawn Jones and Greg Hassler, 90.9 The Bridge will pick up the broadcast at tip-off. Airtime on the UCM Sports Network is set for 1:50 p.m. Saturday afternoon.