WARRENSBURG, Mo. — A very impressive second-half effort by the Gorillas (12-8, 8-5 MIAA) fell short against Central Missouri (14-4, 10-4 MIAA) as Pitt State fell 84-82 Saturday (Jan. 28) at the UCM Multipurpose Building.
Eric Ray's season-high 29 led the Gorillas balanced scoring attack that included four Gorillas in double figures. Ray shot an outstanding 9-of-15 from the floor. JaVon McGee 12, Drake Green 11, and Marky Nolen 10 all turned in solid performances.
The Gorillas came out of the locker-room strong in the second half putting together a 24-8 run that would give them the lead. Pitt State took a 53-51 lead with 13:50 left after the old fashioned three by Ray.
Many Pitt State players became involved in the second half. Ray converted a pair of layups in transition. Nolen hit two big 3-point jumpers to help bring the Gorillas back within striking distance. Green converted a UCM turnover into a two-handed slam-dunk on the other end. McGee made an impressive post move and got a turn around jumper to fall. Courtney Ingram knocked down an open 3-pointer deep in the corner. In a two-on-one situation, Sam Pugh completed a beautiful lob pass to McGee for a two-handed jam. The McGee dunk gave the Gorillas a 57-53 lead with 12:22 to play.
UCM put together a 9-2 run to regain the lead, 62-59, with 9:53 remaining.
A three from NBA range by Boo Hunter and another layup after a Nolen miss expanded the Mules lead to 74-66 with 4:12 left in the contest.
Ray put together an incredible final two and a half minutes, scoring 10 points and bringing the Gorillas to a two-point deficit. Two free throws by Dominique Long gave Central an 84-80 advantage with 1:04 left in the contest. Two more Ray free throws cut the UCM lead to two with 51 seconds left.
The Gorillas came away with a key steal with 12.3 seconds to play in the contest, but a smothering UCM defense kept Pitt State from getting off a final shot and time expired on the Gorillas' comeback bid.
Pitt State trailed 45-33 at halftime to the Mules despite the Gorillas shooting .538 (14-26) from the field, including 3-of-6 from behind the arc. The 10 Pitt State turnovers proved to be costly.
Boo Hunter led UCM with 24 points, making 6-of-8 three point attempts. Will Kirksey (12), Widgett Washington (11) and Alex Dean (10) were the Mules in double figures.
For the game PSU shot .556 from the field (30-54) including .571 (8-14) from behind the arc. The Gorillas also shot .875 (14-16) from the charity stripe.
A two-game home stand awaits Pitt State. On Wednesday (Feb.1), the Gorillas will play host to Southwest Baptist at 7:30 p.m., while Northwest Missouri will come to town Saturday (Feb. 4) for a 3:30 p.m. (CST) showdown.