Washburn has struggled at times throughout the season to hit shots from the perimeter.
Opponents have tried to contain senior shooting guard Will McNeill, who has a knack for getting to the rim. Because of McNeill’s driving ability, Washburn has seen more zone defenses this year. The Ichabods have finally been able to find some rhythm behind the hot shooting of pont guard Martin Mitchell.
“It just makes things easier for the rest of us with so much of the focus being directed towards him,” said Zack Riggins, senior power forward.
Mitchell followed up his career high 32 point performance against Missouri Western with another solid outing. The senior point guard was 4-6 from behind the arc en route to 20 points as Washburn beat Northwest Missouri State University at Schendel Court in Lee Arena. The Bods shot a respectable 50 percent from three-point range while the Bearcats struggled to knock down shots, finishing the game with a poor 28 percent from downtown. The Ichabods were efficient from the floor, shooting 57 percent to Northwest’s 36 percent.
“It definitely stretches out the defense,” said McNeill on Washburn’s shooting from the perimeter. “It just opens everything up not for only me, but for the whole team.”
It took the Ichabods (15-4, 8-4 MIAA) some time in the first half to pull away from Northwest Missouri. Mitchell sank a three-pointer to spark a 13-4 run that gave Washburn a comfortable 34-22 lead. Washburn never relinquished its lead, pushing the lead to 23 points at the 13:54 mark in the second half before finally coming away with a 80-67 win over a formidable Northwest Missouri team (15-7, 8-5 MIAA).
“I felt great about it,” said Riggins. “They have built up a rivalry with us over the past few years and to beat them the way we did should give us momentum on the back stretch of conference play.”
Washburn will need to keep things going as they look to square off with Missouri Western for the second time in a week. The Griffons (9-12, 5-8 MIAA) upset the Ichabods last Wednesday, knocking Washburn down from 17-ranked to the No. 25 spot in this week’s polls. The Ichabods look to seek revenge against the Griffons and know what they must do this time around.
“Play a lot harder on defense and just rebound and defend like we can do,” said McNeill. “At times we’re one of the best defensive teams in the conference and no one should light up for almost 80 points.”