Mules earn hard-fought win over Emporia

Written by Muleskinner Staff

By SEAN McCARRELL
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) – It was a game of runs Saturday as the Mules opened their MIAA home slate with a hard-fought win, beating Emporia State 72-65.
It was all Emporia in the early going, as the Mules started slowly. UCM had trouble shooting in the first few minutes, making only one of their first 11 shots from the field. ESU led by as many as 14 in the first eight minutes of the game, but a three-point play by Dominique Long lit the spark that the Mules had been looking for. At the 11:01 mark, Long cut the Hornets’ lead to 19-10 and started a long run that would give the Mules the halftime lead.
A layup by guard Reggie Stallings gave UCM its first tie since the start of the game, as he knotted the score at 26 with 4:10 to play in the half, capping a 12-2 Mules run.
The Mules took the lead for the first time in the game at the 3:09 mark, when senior post player Matt Webb made a layup, giving UCM a 30-28 advantage.
The Mules, led by 11 first-half points by guard Charles Hammork, went into the locker room ahead 34-28. UCM, after its cold shooting start, finished the half with a higher field-goal percentage than the Hornets. The Mules shot 12/29 (41 percent) in the first 20 minutes, while Emporia State shot 12/30 (41 percent).
“I tell the guys all the time, we’re good shooters, we just have to take good shots,” said Mules head coach Kim Anderson.
The second half followed the blueprint laid out by the first, which was defined by long, dramatic runs by each team. The Mules controlled the game for much of the opening 10 minutes, and expanded their lead to as many as 17.
“We were able to create points off turnovers,” Anderson said. “We want to be more consistent, but we made plays when we had to.”
Much like the Mules in the first half, Emporia State came roaring back. The Hornets, who once led by as many as 14, now trailing by 17, embarked on an extended 18-4 run.
Led by 6-foot-11-inch center Paul Bunch, who finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds, the Hornets took advantage of a dry spell for the Mules’ offense and were able to hit big shots. At the 3:16 mark, Hornet guard Kaleb Wright sank a go-ahead three to give ESU a 65-64 lead, capping the run and forcing the Mules to call timeout.
In a game of runs, the final run belonged to UCM. After taking the one-point lead, Emporia could not score again. In part due to an uptick in intensity by the Mules, and in part due to a switch to zone defense, UCM made critical stops down the stretch, and sank crucial free throws to ice a 72-65 win.
“A key is ratcheting up our defense,” Anderson said. “We were able to create points off turnovers, and came up with huge stops at the end.”
The Mules finished with four players in double-figures, led by Widgett Washington who finished with 17. Reggie Stallings also chipped in 13, while Charles Hammork contributed 12, and Matt Webb finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds giving him a double-double.
In addition to the balanced scoring attack, the Mules only committed eight turnovers, compared to 10 assists, while the Hornets turned the ball over 13 times, and assisted on 12 baskets as a team.
“We were better,” Anderson said of turnovers. “We just have to make the simple play.”
With the win, the Mules improve to 5-2 overall and 1-1 in the MIAA. They will be back in action at 7:30 p.m. next Saturday, when they take on William Woods at the UCM Multipurpose Building in Warrensburg.