Men’s basketball comes up short in top 25 thriller


Photo Courtesy of: Alma Solis

Heat it up: Junior guard Jalen Lewis brings the ball up against Northwest Missouri State University.

In a rematch of what has been the Washburn University Men’s basketball team’s most exciting game of the season the Ichabod’s played host to Northwest Missouri State University on Saturday. After a loss on Thursday, it was going to be a challenge to avoid a winless week as the Bearcats entered as a consensus top five team and at 18-1 on the season. That one loss was in overtime to the Ichabods back on Jan. 7, in an effort that would need to be repeated to make it two in a row.

Unlike in the last game, Washburn wasted no time getting started in this one, scoring on its first four possessions, led by junior guard Jalen Lewis who had seven, giving the Ichabods an early 9-4 lead. Northwest Missouri State was not going to be held down and were quick to respond with a run of its own before taking a 13-14 lead. Each side would begin to trade blows after that, with Washburn having success going inside to junior forward Jonny Clausing who started a perfect 3-3 from the field for six points. The Bearcats continued to shoot lights out and would lead 21-23 ten minutes into the half.

Over the next six minutes junior Trevor Hudgins took over for Northwest Missouri State, scoring eight of his 14 first half points. After each basket the Ichabods were able to respond including a big three by sophomore guard Tyler Nelson to bring the score to 30-31. Washburn would not be able to get any closer than that in the first half as the Bearcats continued to force switches on offense resulting in mismatches and easy baskets inside. Although a last second dunk by senior forward Jace Williams after a great look from senior guard Tyler Geiman moved the game to 38-39 heading into halftime.

Washburn would waste no time completing its mini comeback in the second half. They were led by Lewis and Nelson driving to the basket, netting four early points apiece and giving the Ichabods a 49-48 lead. Washburn would continue to go attack, switching to an inside-out approach once Clausing entered the game. That opened up drives for guards like Geiman whose basket put the Ichabods up 59-55 with just under ten minutes remaining.

“Offensively we did some very good things, shot a very high percentage against a great defensive team, we executed about as well as you could,” said Washburn Head Coach Brett Ballard.

Northwest Missouri State would respond, leaning on its two leading scorers to take a 60-59 lead. Washburn would quickly respond with a three pointer by sophomore guard Connor Deffebaugh as the shot clock was winding down. The following play Nelson hit a fall-away shot and the Ichabods were back up 64-60 with a little less than six minutes left to play.

Each time Washburn went on a run the Bearcats responded, keeping the game within one possession until taking the lead after free throws with 1:23 to play. The Ichabods would pick up two free throws of its own on the next play, coming from Nelson who finished with 18 points. A free throw from Northwest Missouri State would tie the game at 72 with 25 seconds left, leaving Washburn with a chance at the final shot. After a tough floater from Deffebaugh would not fall as time expired the game would head into overtime.

“Conner made the right play, lifted, and he’s pretty good at that little runner, it just didn’t go,” said Ballard.

In the extra period both teams would trade baskets until the Bearcats were able to connect on a corner three with 2:50 remaining, giving them a 79-76 advantage. From that point the Ichabods were going to lean on its leading scorer Tyler Geiman for the rest of the game, even more so after both Jalen Lewis and junior forward Will McKee fouled out.

Geiman delivered on the offensive end, hitting two threes in the final two minutes to keep the game within one possession, including one that brought the game to 83-85 with just 24 seconds left. After Washburn was forced to foul on the next two possessions, they found themselves down 88-85 with just over six seconds left. A well-designed play led to a corner three from freshman guard Levi Braun but it did not fall as the game clock went to zeros, and that is how the game would end.

“That was as good of a college basketball game as I have been a part of at any level,” said Ballard.

The Ichabods will be back at home on Tuesday, Feb. 23 against Northeastern State University in a game that was rescheduled from earlier in the month as they try to get back in the win column.

Edited by: Matthew L. Self