Despite having lost nine straight games coming into Thursday’s game at Lee Arena, the MIAA’s last-place men’s team looked every bit the equal to the league’s first-place squad for much of the night.
Northeastern State (3-12, 0-7) made seven of its 15 3-point attempts to keep pace with Washburn in a 33-33 first half before the Ichabods pulled away for an 82-70 victory that kept them perfect in the conference (6-0) and improved their overall record to 12-3.
“Some of that’s on us as coaches because we really wanted to condense the paint and force them to shoot contested jumpers,” Washburn coach Brett Ballard said. “Give them credit ’cause they did a great job stepping up and knocking them down, but a lot of it is we just didn’t take them out of rhythm.”
The Ichabods will try to fix that at 3 p.m. Saturday when they play host to Central Oklahoma (12-4, 5-2). The Bronchos are coming off a 71-69 loss to Emporia State on Wednesday.
Against Northeastern State, WU jumped out to a 10-2 lead, but NSU rallied behind Trent Cantrell’s 3-for-3 effort from behind the arc and took a 29-26 lead.
“We turned it over too much early,” Ballard said. “The second half, we took care of the ball, and again we did a better job playing through Brady (Skeens). Our points in the paint were big.”
Skeens led all scorers with 20 to help the Ichabods turn the back-and-forth game into a nine-point lead in the final five minutes.
Javion Blake added 18 points, and Cameron Wiggins had 10, including a 3-pointer that gave the Ichabods the lead for good with 14:26 remaining.
Jamir Williams scored 14 in the second half to lead NSU with 17, and a trio of RiverHawks added nine.
“I didn’t think defensively we were great tonight, just good enough,” Ballard said. “It was kind of an ugly win, like the weather outside. We played just good enough to get the win.”
WU on Saturday will seek its 11th straight win and its first 7-0 start in the MIAA since 2003-04. Blake leads the Ichabods at 16.7 points per game.
Corbin Byford tops Central Oklahoma with averages of 12.7 points and 6.8 rebounds. The Bronchos lead the MIAA in blocks at 5.1 per game.
The men’s game will follow a 1 p.m. women’s contest. Washburn’s women (12-3, 4-2) will try to snap a two-game losing skid when it meets UCO, which stands third in the league with marks of 14-2 and 5-2.
The WU women dug themselves a 26-point hole on Thursday while dropping a 67-58 decision to Northeastern State. Reagan Phelan scored 26 points to pace the Ichabods.
UCO senior guard Melinda Murillo produces a team-high 16.3 points per game, which ranks fourth in the MIAA. Jesheon Cooper, a senior forward, ranks seventh nationally with 47 blocks and 14th in rebounds (10.8 per game) while averaging 11.1 points.