For the first time since 1995, Mountain State stands a little past the half-way point at the season with five losses.
No doubt the Cougars (11-5) have a lot of work left to do to make another run at the NAIA national championship.
The mantra is pretty simple at this point: Just win.
And MSU has another chance tonight when the Cougars host Rio Grande (9-6) at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center at 7 p.m.
The Red Storm of Rio Grande is coming off a pair of impressive performances last week, beating No. 12 Cumberlands (77-67) and falling to No. 17 Lindsey Wilson (73-70). The Red Storm led Lindsey by nine with 1:58 left before Lindsey Wilson went on a 12-0 run to close the game.
The game very well may come down second chances.
Rio Grande is No. 1 in the nation in offensive rebound per game (17.3) while Mountain State is No. 2 (17.25).
“They are very physical and they crash the boards,” MSU coach Bob Bolen said. “It’s another team that has a winning record and we have to come out and play Mountain State basketball.”
MSU is coming off a 117-59 pasting of Southern State Community College in a game in which Bolen started four new players in the lineup in an effort to find some “spark” that was missing in a loss to Lee last week.
“I thought they did a good job of doing what we asked, providing some spark,” Bolen said. “They gave us some added energy. I’m not sure what we’re going to do (as far as who will start). I’ll probably mix it up again.”
Turrell Morris leads the Red Storm, averaging 16.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. Shaun Gunnell averages 13.3 ppg and 7.1 rebounds, followed by Jermaine Warmack (11.5 ppg), Dominick Haynes (9.5) and Brad Cubbie (9.5).
“They are a very balanced team,” Bolen said. “They have a lot of people contribute.”
For MSU, four players average in double figures, led by Cam Miller’s 14.8 points per game.
Point guard Mark Williams — the only one of the regular starters who started Saturday — is averaging 13.9 points and nine assists, followed by Devon Peterson (13.0) and Isaiah Hill (11.1 and 10.1 rebounds). Hill missed the SSCC game with an undisclosed injury and his status was not certain.
One of the stars Saturday was Bruce Komakech, who made his first start of the year and responded with 17 points and 10 rebounds. The freshman entered the game averaging just over four points and three rebounds a game.
“Bruce has had some real big games for us,” Bolen said. “He is probably our highest energy player and he is real smart. He can play all five positions and we have worked him about everywhere.”
MSU travels to Southern Tech (Ga.) Saturday.
— E-mail: demorrison@
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