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Lions look for second straight win ahead of conference tournament

Mar. 1—Missouri Southern earned a double-digit victory on Wednesday night over Washburn to get back in the win column after dropping a game at Fort Hays State and losing three of its last four games.

"This time of year every win makes a huge difference in terms of finishing where you're going to finish as far as conference tournament," MSSU head coach Ronnie Ressel said.

Now the Lions seek a bit of a confidence boost and an ability to solidify their spot in the standings with a second straight win. They're currently second and are one game ahead of three teams in that spot. One of those teams just below them is Northwest Missouri State — the same team coming into town at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

"It's a big boost as far as that," Ressel said. "Now we're trying to figure out a way to get a win against Northwest going into the conference tournament. A win will guarantee us the second seed. That, to me, is important as well."

It is important in order to avoid a potential fall to fifth in the standings with a loss.

Ressel added that he knew his final six games on the schedule posed a bit of a challenge. With one game left, the Lions could split even in those final six games if they take down the Bearcats in the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center on Saturday.

MSSU would like to have come away with more wins during that stretch but at the end of the day, the team is focused on the effort and overall performance it gave.

"We always talk about giving great effort. You walk off the floor and know you've given great effort and had the potential to win a ballgame, you can be happy," Ressel said.

He added that his team has improved over the last five games despite the losing record during that time. The tough schedule and gauntlet that the MIAA conference offers has shown Southern areas that it must improve.

The Lions (20-7, 16-5 MIAA) will be focusing on half court defense as they welcome the Bearcats (21-6, 15-6 MIAA) for this key game for both teams.

"We have to be able to guard in the half court," Ressel said. "We have to do a much better job compared to the last time we played them offensively executing and shooting a better percentage."

Ressel believes the Lions weren't able to get out in transition enough in that game. Three months later, they will look to take advantage of the improvements made. He said it's like playing a completely different team when the matchups are three months apart, like the game on Saturday and the one back on Nov. 30th are.

MSSU is averaging 73.3 points per game and holds opponents to just 62. Northwest puts up 67.7 ppg while the opposition scores right at 60. The Bearcats won the meeting back in Nov. 69-59.