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Lincoln men to host top-ranked Northwest Missouri

Lincoln men to host top-ranked Northwest Missouri

February 9th, 2019 by Greg Jackson in College Sports

Terrance Smith of Lincoln pulls down a rebound during Thursday night's game against Missouri Western at Jason Gym.

Photo by Mark Wilson /News Tribune.

For the second time in three seasons, the No. 1 team in the country is coming to Jason Gym.

The Lincoln men's basketball team will host top-ranked Northwest Missouri today, with tip-off scheduled for around 3 p.m.

"All the chips are on the table," Lincoln coach John Moseley said. "We've got the only chance in the country on Saturday to beat the No. 1 team."

The Blue Tigers (16-5, 9-3 MIAA) enter the game with the conference's second-longest active win streak at four games. Lincoln is tied for second with Washburn in the conference standings following Thursday's 66-52 win against Missouri Western to complete the season sweep.

Northwest Missouri (22-0, 12-0 MIAA) is the only undefeated team remaining in NCAA Division II. The Bearcats clinched a spot in the MIAA Tournament with Thursday's 72-41 win at Lindenwood.

"Our guys will be excited to play," Moseley said. "Our coaching staff will do our best to make sure we put these guys in position to be successful. I have nothing but respect for coach (Ben) McCollum and what he's done at Northwest. Those guys have set the bar for this league, and that's something we're aspiring to get to."

Northwest Missouri leads the MIAA in scoring offense (87.5 points per game) and scoring defense (63.2). The Bearcats rank in the top 15 in Division II in both categories and lead the nation with a 24.3 scoring margin.

All but three of Northwest Missouri's win have been by 10 or more points. However, Lincoln's 85-78 loss Dec. 6 to the Bearcats in Maryville is one of the three games decided by single digits.

"We're going to spend a little bit of time seeing what we did well and things we didn't do well," Moseley said. "But that game was so early in the season, both teams are playing so differently now."

Northwest Missouri has four players averaging double figures in scoring. Joey Witthus, a 6-foot-7 senior guard, leads the team with 21.0 points per game. He leads the MIAA with 73 made 3-pointers and a 50.7 shooting percentage beyond the arc.

Trevor Hudgins, a 6-0 redshirt freshman guard, is averaging 19.0 points and 6.0 assists per game, while Ryan Hawkins and Diego Bernard are averaging 15.5 and 12.0 points per game, respectively.

The Bearcats lead the nation with a 44.0 3-point shooting percentage. After Thursday's 1-for-14 performance from 3, the Blue Tigers dropped from third to fifth in Division II at 41.5 percent as a team.

Terrance Smith leads Lincoln with 16.7 points per game. The other four starters — Amariontez Ivory (13.7), Jonell Burton (13.0), Ni'Sean Rigmaiden (12.4) and Grant Olsson (10.0) — are all still averaging double figures in scoring through 21 games.

Northwest Missouri leads the all-time series 48-30 against Lincoln. The Blue Tigers' last win in the series was Dec. 18, 2015, a 79-74 victory at Jason Gym.

In the opening game of today's doubleheader, the Lincoln women will try to snap an 11-game losing streak in conference play.

In the first meeting against Northwest Missouri this season, Lincoln (9-12, 1-11 MIAA) opened the conference schedule with a 69-66 win in Maryville. It was Lincoln's first MIAA win since the 2016-17 season.

Since then, the Blue Tigers have dropped 12 of their last 14 games following a 7-0 start to the season.

Northwest Missouri (7-14, 3-9 MIAA) has lost its last four games. The Bearcats dropped a 71-55 decision Thursday at Lindenwood.

Jaelyn Haggard, a 5-5 sophomore guard, leads the Bearcats in scoring with 12.0 points per game. Kendey Eaton, a 5-6 junior guard, is second on the team with 10.9 points per game.

Northwest Missouri averages 59.0 points and allows 63.3 points per game. Lincoln averages 68.5 points per game and allows an average of 64.1.

Zhanesha Dickerson leads the Blue Tigers with 16.2 points per game, followed by Bre Coleman (14.2) and Zoi Thompson (13.5). Dickerson and Coleman each average 7.9 rebounds per game and Thompson leads the team with 4.2 assists per game.

Northwest Missouri is tied for 11th in the MIAA standings, while Lincoln is in last place by a game. Only the top 10 teams advance next month to the MIAA Tournament in Kansas City.