MARYVILLE, Mo. — After a weekend series garnered successful results for both men’s and women’s programs, the Northwest Missouri State University basketball teams are looking for the same yields this weekend as the Bearcats travel to Joplin, Missouri, and Pittsburg, Kansas, for two tough road tests before the postseason.
In a rare scheduling matter, the two teams Northwest faces this week will travel to Maryville next weekend for their second meetings in the same amount of weeks.
For the men, the No. 1-ranked Bearcats (22-1, 12-1 MIAA) face No. 14-ranked Missouri Southern (18-4, 11-2 MIAA) Thursday in a battle of the two best teams in the MIAA.
“They’ve been good,” men’s head coach Ben McCollum said. “I feel like we’ve been good so that’s why they’ve been able to beat us. I don’t think its necessarily a specific matchup thing or anything like that, it’s just that they’re good.”
Northwest owns the all-time series lead against the Lions but the two squads have split the last six matches. Out of the Cats’ six losses over the previous four seasons, three have come against Missouri Southern.
“We’ve just got to do what we do best,” junior forward Ryan Hawkins said. “Play defense and communicate and fly around.”
“If we play good on offense and defense, I think we’ll be okay,” McCollum interjected.
Currently riding a 14-game win streak, Northwest is tied for the third-longest active win streak among NCAA Division II teams. The Bearcats had a 46-game win streak snapped earlier this season and have since gone 60-1 in their last 61 games.
Northwest has had good fortune on the road in the past four seasons. The Bearcats have recorded a record of 31-4 in MIAA matchups during the stretch while winning at least eight road games in each of the previous four seasons.
This week’s co-MIAA men’s basketball athletes of the week will square off as sophomore guard Trevor Hudgins and Missouri Southern’s Cam Martin were both given the honor for their performances last weekend.
“I don’t have that answer,” McCollum said about stopping Martin. “If you can figure out that answer, you let me know because there’s not a lot of people who have found that answer out. He’s a problem.”
Hudgins averaged 28 points while shooting 68.0 percent from the field and 72.2 percent from three-point range. The Manhattan, Kansas, native also tallied a career-high 36 points against Lincoln Feb. 8.
Junior forward Ryan Hawkins has also been playing well as of late. The Atlantic, Iowa, native has scored 20 or more in three of his last four games while notching back-to-back double-doubles against Central Missouri and Lincoln. Hawkins also tops MIAA in scoring, averaging 22.8 points per game.
“I thought we had a great practice (Monday) and I’m sure we’re going to have a fun one (Tuesday),” Hawkins said. “Ultimately, we’re trying to get ourselves better and figure us out.”
For the women’s squad, they take on a Missouri Southern (7-14, 4-9 MIAA) squad who sits one place behind them in the MIAA standings and a Pittsburg State (12-9, 8-5 MIAA) team two spots ahead of them.
The Bearcats (11-11, 6-7 MIAA) sit in ninth place heading into the weekend slate of games. The top-10 teams in the conference travel to Kansas City for the MIAA Tournament.
“We know we’ve got to compete and play hard,” women’s head coach Austin Meyer said. “Southern is a team that is below us, but they play well at home. They’re a team that if we don’t come out ready to compete and play hard we won’t win the game.”
Northwest has played sound defensively all year, holding its opponents to 57.7 points per game. The Bearcats’ scoring defense ranks 30th in the country.
Junor forward Jawlyn Haggard has been playing well in her last four games, the St. Joseph, Missouri, native is averaging 14.8 points per game in the stretch while shooting over 50 percent from the field and behind the three-point arc.
“I think as a team we’re just really clicking right now,” Haggard said. “I think everybody is just playing really confident. That’s kind of been what’s working for us. You can just see everybody individually and as a team just playing to have fun and playing to compete without any pressure on anybody.”
The Bearcats have surpassed double-digit wins for the first time in five years with 11 victories being the second-highest win total since 2012-13. Going into the final weeks of the schedule, Meyer’s squad is fighting for a spot in the postseason tournament since the 2016-17 season.
For his team to be successful, Meyer said he needs to see “relentless aggression” in the remaining games.
“I thought we did a good job defensively, pretty much in both games,” Meyer said. “ … Just keep playing hard. We had a good practice (Monday). We competed and did a lot of conditioning. We had our scout team in and got after it.”
Thursday’s games against Missouri Southern will tip-off at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. while Saturday’s games at Pittsburg State will start at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.