KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Washburn did not figure to have the daring point guard who made a splash Tuesday during the MIAA nonconference tripleheader staged in Municipal Auditorium.
Not against Northwest Missouri. Not against the Bearcats’ two-time MIAA player of the year, point guard Justin Pitts. And not when the Ichabod driving to the hole was a freshman whose lack of stubble makes him look the part.
Yet there was Tyler Geiman, determined in the second half to keep the Ichabods (2-3) in the game against the nation’s reigning Division II champs and No. 1-ranked team.
The 6-foot-1 Blue Valley High School product scored 15 points, 11 in the second half, and added five assists as the Ichabods traded leads 13 times before falling 86-78.
“Coach was on us to keep attacking, keep aggressive,’’ Geiman said. “We can see how good we’re really going to be. We can take away some possessions we messed up and learned from those.’’
There was not altogether that many mistakes. Well, until the stretch run.
That was when Pitts took over for the Bearcats. He scored 22 points, including 17 in the second half off layups and fouls from dribble penetration, and added nine assists as Northwest won its 16th straight game dating to last year and climbed to 5-0.
The offensive assistance Pitts received came from the deadliest point, behind the arc. Northwest made a scorching 14 of 25 attempts from that range, including five each from forwards Chris-Ebou Ndow and Ryan Welty.
The Ichabods countered behind senior forward Brady Skeens, who posted a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds despite attempting just seven shots. Forward David Salach added 11 points and backup guard Isaac Clark had 10 as the Bods shot 52.6 percent, but couldn’t match the Bearcats’ torrid shooting (56.5 percent), particularly on 3s.
“I don’t like moral victories by any stretch of the imagination but I am proud of the team,’’ said first-year Washburn coach Brett Ballard. “I thought we competed about as well as we have all year.
“We executed our game plan about as well as we have all year. Give Northwest a lot of credit. They kind of shot the fire out of the ball, so you’ve got to pick your poison with them.’’
That poison involved the fuel injection provided by Pitts and the choices he made to drive for a shot or kick out the ball. For much of the game, however, Washburn kept him out of the lane, while its guards penetrated nicely and almost matched Northwest (16-15) in assists.
Geiman was as instrumental as anyone with that dimension, going 6 of 9 while playing 28 minutes off the bench.
“He’s just starting to tap in to how good he’s going to be,’’ Ballard said. “He tweaked his knee a couple of weeks ago at practice, so he missed a little bit of time and he’s a little bit behind where he probably would be. But he played a great game. He’s really solid and he’s going to be good for us.’’
Although they represent the different degrees of experience Ballard must meld as he continues to introduce his system, Skeens was aware of the impact Geiman might provide.
“My dad actually coaches some youth teams and he was on the first team my dad started coaching,’’ said Skeens, who is from Lenexa and played for SM Northwest.
“I used to go to a lot of their games and Tyler’s from their first class going to college, so I’m glad he came to Washburn. I was very excited, because I know Tyler is a great player. I think we got a steal, because a lot of people overlooked him in recruiting.’’
Washburn led by as many as eight in the first half, but trailed by three at the break before going ahead again, 65-61, on a 3-pointer by Javion Blake with 7:43 remaining.
Northwest rallied with eight straight points, including a three-point play by Pitts and two free throws from their standout guard to take the lead for keeps. Beginning with the three-point play, Pitts scored 15 points in crunch time. WU countered with only one field goal in the last four minutes.
Skeens 5-7 5-8 15, Salach 5-7 0-0 11, Smith 2-4 1-2 5, Blake 2-9 1-1 6, Wiggins 2-6 2-6 6, Geiman 6-9 2-2 15, Martin 3-5 1-1 7, Clark 4-8 2-4 10, Holmes 0-0 0-0 0, McKee 0-0 0-0 0, Holmberg 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 30-57 12-18 78.
NORTHWEST MISSOURI (5-0)
Ndow 6-9 2-2 19, Dougherty 2-4 2-2 6, Pitts 6-11 9-11 22, Kurth 1-2 2-2 4, Witthus 3-7 5-6 13, Finley 0-2 0-0 0, Hawkins 1-4 0-0 3, Starzl 2-2 0-0 4, Welty 5-5 0-0 15. Totals 26-46 20-23 86.
Halftime — Northwest 42, Washburn 39. 3-point goals — Washburn 6-20 (Wiggins 2-6, Salach 1-2, Geiman 1-2, Holmberg 1-1, Clark 0-4, Smith 0-1); Northwest 14-25 (Ndow 5-7, Welty 5-5, Witthus 2-5, Pitts 1-4, Hawkins 1-4). Rebounds — Washburn 29 (Skeens 10); Northwest 23 (Ndow 7). Assists — Washburn 15 (Geiman 5); Northwest 16 (Pitts 9). Turnovers — Washburn 12, Northwest 12.