(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – The Central Missouri Mules claimed at least a share of the MIAA regular season championship with a 76-64 win over Truman State on Wednesday night at the UCM Multipurpose Building.
This is Central Missouri’s second straight conference crown, the first time since 1983-84 and 84-85 that UCM has captured back-to-back championships.
The Mules (19-6, 13-4 MIAA) jumped out to an early 10-4 lead four minutes into the game. The Bulldogs (9-16, 6-11 MIAA) responded with a 9-4 spurt to pull within one at 14-13 at the 9:41 mark, but the Mules came right back with seven straight points to open a 21-13 lead with 7:47 to play in the half.
Truman State pulled back to within three two separate times, including 24-21 with 2:22 left in the opening period. A three from Jon Gilliam pushed the lead to six and sparked a 7-0 run to end the half that gave UCM a 31-21 lead at the intermission.
The Mules used a 12-6 run out of the break to open a 43-27 lead with 16:01 to play in the game. UCM pushed the lead to 17 at the 14:34 mark with a 47-31 advantage, but the Bulldogs began to chip away at the lead.
Central Missouri stopped a short run by TSU and pushed the lead back to 16 at 54-38 with 11:25 to play in the game, but a 19-8 run brought the Bulldogs to within five at 62-57 with 5:43 remaining in regulation.
Zach Bush stopped the bleeding with a layup and was fouled. He missed the ensuing free throw, but Charles Hammork got the rebound and was fouled. He calmly hit both free throws to push the lead back to nine. Hammork hit two more foul shots on the next possession before stealing a pass and throwing it down for a thunderous dunk to give UCM a 70-57 lead with 4:06 to play.
The Mules weren’t challenged the rest of the way as went on to the 12-point win and their second straight MIAA regular season championship. It’s the fifth championship under head coach Kim Anderson and the 23rd title in program history.
The win also gave UCM a perfect 13-0 record at home for the season, the first undefeated home mark since 2008-09 and the third under Anderson.
The Mules were led in scoring by Hammork’s 20 points and 11 rebounds, his first double-double of the season, to go along with three blocks and three steals. Alex Deanadded his second double-double of the year with 12 points and 11 boards. Widgett Washington added nine points and five assists, while Zach Bush had seven rebounds and four blocked shots.
UCM shot 49 percent from the floor, 29-of-59, and 40 percent from beyond the arc, 6-of-15. The Mules struggled at the foul line, hitting just 12-of-24 attempts for 50 percent.
Truman was led in scoring by Seth Jackson’s 15 points and 10 rebounds. Cole Myers had 11 points and Mike Carlson added 10.
The Bulldogs shot 41 percent, 26-of-63, but made just 1-of-19 three-point attempts for 5 percent. TSU was 11-of-15 at the charity stripe for 73 percent.
The Mules finished with eight blocks and both teams had 12 turnovers.
The win secures at least a share of the conference title for UCM and secures a bye to the MIAA Tournament quarterfinals in Kansas City on March 7.
UCM will go for the outright championship this Saturday when they travel to Topeka, Kan. for a 7 p.m. showdown with Washburn. The game is being televised as the MIAA Television Game of the Week. Check your local cable or satellite provider for channel information.
The game can be heard live on 1450 KOKO, 98.5 The Bar and www.warrensburgradio.com with Shawn Jones and Greg Hassler on the call, 90.9 The Bridge will pick up the broadcast at tip-off. Airtime on the UCM Sports Network is set for 6:35 p.m. A pay-per-view webcast is also available through AmericaOneSports.com.