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Western men get first win over Northwest in over 11 years

Jan. 14—Missouri Western men's basketball got a hold of a lead and never let it slip, ending a 24-game losing streak to Northwest Missouri State on Saturday by winning 76-70.

Fouls became a problem for the Griffons early and late. Juniors Taye Fields, Justin Bubak and Zion Swader each picked up two fouls in the first half. Redshirt freshman Josh Book also picked up two fouls in the first half, leaving head coach Will Martin with three primary ball handlers in foul trouble. Regardless of the amount of fouls picked up by the players, Will Martin stuck to the plan. Fields, Swader, Bubak and Book would all end up picking up 4 personal fouls by the end of the contest, but the Griffons would not have to go too deep into the bench despite the foul trouble.

"We always talk about 'next man up,'" Martin said. "Everyone's gotta be prepared and ready and everyone has to expect to have success, and I thought that you saw that from guys that came in."

The last time Western and Northwest played at Looney Arena, the Griffs had a five-point lead at the half. Western would not be able to hold in the final 20 minutes of play. On Saturday, they built a little more of a halftime cushion with a seven-point lead heading into the break, with redshirt junior Julius Dixon playing a big part by scoring 11 points in the first half.

The Griffs would not lean on one particular player in the second half as they would look to put away the Bearcats and put an end to Northwest's torment of Western. However, senior JaRon Thames would take advantage of one of the final chances he has of playing the Bearcats in his career. Thames would score eight of his 16 points in the final 2:16 of the game, including six made free throws down the stretch. When the opportunity presented itself and the game not out of reach yet, Thames helped seal the win.

"I say we expected this though. We worked very hard for it, so it's not like we wasn't expecting a win tonight," Thames said after the game.

Northwest Missouri State was the No. 1 team in the MIAA men's standings before Saturday's game. With the win, Missouri Western climbs to third in the conference standings.

Jacob Meikel can be reached at jacob.meikel@newspressnow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @NPNowMeikel.