Ichabods set for final three games

Chris Marshall

For teams in Washburn’s position, postseason play has already begun. Lose games in February and there is no March.

Eight teams make the MIAA tournament and the Ichabods are sitting on the tip of the bubble along with Emporia State. When the postseason field is set in seven days, there will likely only be room for one. The in-state rivals are tied for the eighth spot with 7-10 records in the MIAA and three games left to play.

Fortunately, the Bods won six of their last nine, including a 31-point victory against the Hornets on Jan. 13, to put themselves in position to control their own postseason fate.

“These guys have come a long way,” said coach Bob Chipman. “I’m proud of how they’ve fought back and improved as a team this season. It’s a young team and for them to compete the way they do shows a lot of heart.”

Winning two of their next three games all but assures the Bods (13-11, 7-10 MIAA) a berth in the MIAA tournament, but the toughest test left on the schedule comes at 7:30 tonight at Missouri Southern.

The Griffons (14-9, 8-8) won by 17 in Lee Arena last month, handing the Bods their fifth consecutive loss and dropping them to 1-7 in the MIAA. Since then, WU has made a steady climb in the standings, and could still finish as high as fourth, but doing so requires a win tonight at Joplin, Mo.

“We need to keep our confidence when we play on the road,” said sophomore guard William McNeill. “It’s not that you go in assuming to win. All the conference games are tough on the road, but we have to have the mindset that we can beat anybody no matter where we play.”

The game isn’t necessarily a must-win, but if the Bods can avenge their loss to the Griffons, it would make things easier heading into Saturday’s game against Pittsburg State and the season finale next Wednesday at ESU.

After knocking off Southwest Baptist, the conference’s No. 3 team, 100-71 on Saturday, WU won’t play another team with an above-.500 MIAA record. PSU (8-15, 2-14) has been the conference’s worst team not named Truman State, and the Bods will look to sweep the Gorillas this weekend after beating them 62-54 earlier in the year.

Despite opening the season with a 6-1 non-conference record, the Gorillas have suffered through the MIAA schedule and lost nine of their last 10 games, which shows just how difficult the conference can be.

“It’s a tough league,” said Chipman. “It’s always competitive from top to bottom and really there aren’t any games off.”

Surviving the 20-game MIAA slugfest may be a challenge, but WU’s goal now is to drag the fight out even longer with a trip to the conference tournament. If the Bods get there, it’s anyone’s guess as to which of the eight teams will get hot and win in Kansas City.

“We’ve given ourselves a chance,” McNeill said. “We all know our roles and we’ve started playing to our potential. That’s helped us against some of the more experienced teams in our last few games and hopefully it pays off toward the end of the season.”