Lions seek offensive consistency in MIAA tournament

Mar. 5—Missouri Southern's men's basketball team has won 13 games this year. In nine of those wins, second-team all-MIAA selection Darius Dawson scored 16 or more points. He tallied 29 points once, 27 once, 25 twice and 22 twice.

His average was 22.3 points per game during those nine wins. In all 13 wins, Dawson averaged 18.5 ppg. He was also pulling down seven rebounds per game.

That's above his season average of 14.3 ppg and 6.5 rpg.

In the Lions' 15 losses, Dawson has averaged just 10.6 ppg.

Heading into the MIAA conference tournament this week — which begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday for MSSU — the team will look for its best offensive game.

"We just have to get sharper offensively," MSSU head coach Sam McMahon said. "We weren't getting the ball movement we had been getting. We just have to move the basketball and don't overdribble."

That lack of ball movement McMahon refers to was in the last three games as Southern fell from 13-12 to 13-15 overall with consecutive losses. Now, those losses were to opponents near the top of the conference. Most recently, it fell to fifth-ranked Northwest Missouri State University. Prior to that, it was Washburn (receiving votes) and No. 14 Fort Hays State.

The Lions fell to Washburn by 5 at home and to FHSU by 2 in overtime on the road. The Bearcats beat them by 17 at home.

But if they want to keep playing past this week in Kansas City for the conference tournament, it will require beating teams like that and more than one of them.

"We can compete with some of the best teams in the country, and it just shows you our potential in this tournament," McMahon said. "Anybody can beat anybody. We know we have to hang our hat on the defensive end.

"We can't get our head down. We have to continue to improve and get better. ... We have to have relentless effort both offensively and defensively."

That's where it all starts for the Lions. If they want a rematch with Northwest Missouri State this week, they must beat Missouri Western on Wednesday inside Municipal Auditorium.

The Griffons won the lone matchup with the Lions 62-61 on Dec. 2. Now they will meet again in a postseason game.

Dawson is certainly a focus for the Lions in the upcoming game.

"We want to get our best players with the ball in their hands in the places they like on the court," McMahon said. "We have to get him shots."

McMahon talked about running certain sets to make sure and get Dawson those opportunities because he isn't a guard and doesn't have the ball at all times.

That will mean getting what the Lions refer to as "rip" screens and "cross" screens to give him that space.

"We have to focus on getting him touches," McMahon added.

Dawson also gets opponents into foul trouble often as he leads the team by about 50 attempts at the free throw line. The junior transfer has attempted 115 free shots and made 91 of them at a 79% clip.

McMahon noted that opponents with better interior defense can defend without fouling at times and that's when Dawson is limited a bit more offensively. During those games, the Lions look to get their outside shots falling.

"When we hit the 3-point shot, it opens up the floor," he said. "That helps everybody. Let alone Darius (Dawson). So I would like to see a lot of threes being hit.

"When he catches it in the post, we can't just stand and watch. We have to get guys diving to the basket and movement."

As for the defense, the Lions are focused on keeping the ball out of the paint and getting all five guys defending the ball.


Along with Dawson's second-team all-MIAA selection, Martin Macenis and Vinson Sigmon Jr. picked up honorable mention awards.

Macenis averaged 11.7 ppg and 4.6 rpg. Sigmon registered 12.1 ppg.