Ichabods enjoy home court advantage despite less-than-stellar MIAA schedule

The Ichabods almost always win at home, and they rarely steal one on the road.

The MIAA schedule-makers didn’t exactly do Washburn any favors by sending them on the road for six of their first eight conference games. However, every team gets eight at home and eight away, so the 12-7 Bods are long overdue for a home stand.

Just one road test remains before Washburn finishes the season with five of their last seven games at Lee Arena.

“It’s so tough to play on the road in this conference,” said senior guard Andrew Meile. “There are some tough environments, and everybody wants to protect their home court.”

Although the Bods have only won a single conference road game, Jan. 12 at Northwest Missouri State, there is some extra motivation for the team in their upcoming trip to Missouri Southern.

“We lost to Southern here,” said junior guard James Williams. “Now we’re going to their place, and we want to return the favor.”

Williams and the rest of the Bods took pride in their previously unblemished home record. Losing to the second place Lions may not have been a fluke, but it did show Washburn and the rest of the conference that visitors can win in Lee Arena.

Three games separate the two teams, but the Bods think they need to make up for their lone home loss by winning in Joplin and hurting MSSU’s shot at an MIAA title. In the previous match-up Wednesday the Bods fell 82-74.

“We’re ready for it,” said sophomore guard Mario Scott. “Coach has been getting us ready. We want to go play on their home court now.”

Taming the Lions, who are 13-6 overall, 7-3 MIAA, on the road could be considered one of this season’s toughest tests based on the standings. However, no one in the MIAA can ever be counted out of a game, mainly because of the competitive play all 10 teams bring to the court every night.

“It’s hard to win on the road, especially in this conference,” said Scott. “But they did it here, so we just feel like if we keep playing hard we can do it there.”

Saturday’s 21-point win against Missouri Western snapped a three-game losing streak for the Bods and got them back on track after fixing the issues that cost them the last game against MSSU.

“We were staying in one spot too long before,” said head coach Bob Chipman. “We wasted a lot of perimeter shots, and as a result our shooting percentage was down. [Against MWSU] we had better ball movement, and we were shooting much better.”

In the last meeting with MSSU Washburn’s starting forwards combined for just 13 points and six rebounds. The Ichabod frontcourt was still not a strength in the win against MWSU, but the guards proved they can carry the team to victory even when the post players are having off nights.

“We’re doing better consistently looking for our forwards,” said Chipman. “They haven’t had great games lately, but they will. Brady [Sisk] and Kyle [Snyder] and those guys will score down there eventually. Inside/outside ball movement is always a good thing.”

Winning at MSSU would be a huge confidence boost for the Bods heading into a slew of games in Lee Arena. Once they return home Saturday they again face familiar competition. Pittsburg State, who beat Washburn 72-69 just two weeks earlier, will bring their 13-6 record into Topeka for a battle of two teams with 4-6 MIAA records.

“It’s going to be amazing for us,” said Williams. “At first I hated our schedule because we were on the road all the time, but now we’ve got an opportunity at home to finish strong and make a run at the tournament.”

The Bods and Gorillas will be playing for their postseason lives and currently hold the last two spots in the eight-team MIAA tournament field. The loser faces the risk of dropping out of the postseason picture and into a tie with Truman State, who is close behind at 3-7.

Because of the balance between teams in the MIAA it is not too late to rule out a late season run by the Bods. With just two games separating the third and eighth place teams in the conference, a few wins at home could have Washburn talking about winning the MIAA tournament rather than just settling on a first-round berth.

“We’ve played our best at home all season,” said Williams. “So you never know. It’s still right there for us. We want to get another win on Wednesday, and then just focus on hopefully making this home stand up.”