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Gorillas to Open MIAA Play Against Bearcats Thursday - KOAM TV 7

Gorillas to Open MIAA Play Against Bearcats Thursday

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Press Release Pittsburg State University:

The Pittsburg State University men's basketball team will travel to Maryville, Mo., Thursday (Dec. 5) to open Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association play against  Northwest Missouri State University.

Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. (CST) at Bearcat Arena.

The Records
Pitt State brings a 3-3 overall record into the MIAA opener.  The Gorillas have won three of their last four games, after starting the season 0-2.  Pitt State split a pair of games Nov. 29-30 in the WTAMU Thanksgiving Shootout at Canyon, Texas.  The Gorillas defeated Eastern New Mexico, 86-84, in the two-day tournament, before faling 70-58 to West Texas A&M the last time out.

Northwest is 4-4 on the season heading into Thursday's match-up.  The Bearcats posted a 21-10 overall record and an 11-7 MIAA mark a year ago.  Northwest has dropped two straight decisions, falling to defending NCAA Division II National Champion Drury (74-72) and former MIAA rival Truman (81-77).

The Coaches
Pittsburg State's Kevin Muff is in his fourth season leading the Gorillas. Muff (Kansas State, '86) became the Gorillas' 14th all-time head coach on Apr. 5, 2010, after spending 12 seasons at Cloud County Community College, where he helped the Thunderbirds to an average of 21 wins in each of the last five seasons.

He has a 51-40 (.560) record in his short tenure with the Gorillas.  This will be his seventh meeting against Northwest Missouri State. He is 2-4 vs. the Bearcats.

Ben McCollum enters his sixth year as head coach of NWMSU. McCollum (Northwest Missouri, '03) has amassed a 69-52 (.570) mark leading the Bearcats.

Series History
This will be the 122nd all-time meeting between the Gorillas and the Bearcats in a series that dates back to the 1926 season.

Pitt State holds a 66-55 (.545) advantage in the series; however, the Bearcats have defeated the Gorillas in four of the last five meetings.

NWMSU defeated Pitt State the last time the two teams met on Jan. 5, 2013, 62-51, in Pittsburg.

PSU on the Road
Pitt State has compiled an 11-25 (.305) record in road games during the past four seasons, including an 0-3 mark this season.

Scouting the Gorillas
Pitt State enters the tournament action with three players averaging in double figures on the season: junior guard Devon Branch (23.7 ppg), sophomore guard Jake Bullard (17.3 ppg) and senior guard Sam Pugh is adding 12.3 ppg.

Branch scored 20 points in the Gorillas season opener against Newman on Nov. 13 before exiting the game with a knee injury. He missed three games, before returning to the Pitt State lineup last weekend.

The Aberdeen, Md., native tallied 27 points against Eastern New Mexico and 24 vs. West Texas A&M the last time out.

On the season, Branch is shooting 60.5 (23-for-38) from the field while also averaging 5.3 rebounds per contest.
Branch transferred to Pitt State last January from the University of Oregon. He did not play for the Ducks, but he averaged 22 points per game as a sophomore at Cloud County Community College in 2011, leading the Jayhawk Conference in scoring.

Branch posted 30 points and 16 rebounds in the Gorillas' exhibition loss to Kansas State on Nov. 1. He also scored a game-high 27 points on Oct. 29 in an exhibition loss ot the University of Kansas.

Bullard (6-5, 180) recorded a double-double against Eastern New Mexico, recording 15 points and a career-high 10 assists. He notched a 21-point performance in Pitt State's victory over Avila on Saturday (Nov. 23). The Cleora, Okla., native also scored 27 points against Bethany on Nov. 22.

Bullard is shooting 60.4 percent from the floor (32-for-53) and also averaging 5.3 rebounds and a team-high 5.3 assists per game in the early goings this year.

Pugh (6-0, 180) is averaging 12.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists and a team-leading 2.0 steals per game. The Branson, Mo., native tallied 22 points against Eastern New Mexico and 12 points with a career-best 10 dimes against Bethany, recording his first career double-double.

Freshman guard Josiah Gustafson is averaging just below double digits with 8.2 points per game. The Omaha, Neb., native tallied 15 points against Bethany on Nov. 22.

Senior guard Ethan Cordray and junior forward Alex Williams are chipping in with 7.2 points apiece. Williams is also averaging 4.2 rebounds per contest.  Cordray has converted 11 of 25 3-point field goals (.440).

As a team, the Gorillas are shooting 52.2 percent from the field (176-337)and 39.7 percent from 3-point range (46-116). Pitt State also is shooting 71.1 percent from the free throw line (106-149).

Pitt State has averaged 17.3 turnovers per game.

The Gorillas opponents have converted 43.2 percent of their shots from the floor (165-382), including 33.3 percent (50-150) from beyond the arc. PSU's opponents are shooting 68.4 percent from the charity stripe (106-155).

Scouting the Bearcats
The Bearcats bring a 4-4 record into the MIAA opener against the Gorillas Thursday.

Senior forward Dillon Starzi leads five Northwest players averaging double digits on the season. The Kearney, Mo., native has tallied 17.5 points and a team-high 5.8 rebounds per contest. Senior guard DeShaun Cooper averages 11.3 points and has notched a team-high 23 assists in seven games played. Junior forward Grant Cozad has notched 11.1 points per game while primarily coming off the bench for the Bearcats.

Sophomore guard Conner Crooker and senior guard Bryston Williams average 10.5 and 10.4 points per game, respectively.

Collectively, Northwest has averaged 77.2 points, while surrendering 70.5 points per game. NWMSU is shooting 48.7 (203-417) from the field, including 38.2 (47-123) from three-point territory. The Bearcats shoot 75.3 (165-219) from the charity stripe.

Pitt State Probable Starters
    F    23    Alex Williams, 6-7, 225, Jr., Salina, Kan.
    F    32    Trevor Gregory, 6-7, 235, Fr., Lee's Summit, Mo.
    G    1    Jake Bullard, 6-5, 190, So., Cleora, Okla.
    G    5    Devon Branch, 6-6, 180, Jr., Aberdeen, Md.
    G    21    Sam Pugh, 6-0, 180, Jr., Branson, Mo.

Northwest Probable Starters
    C    34    Kyle Schlake, 6-10, 250, Sr., Firth, Neb.
    F    51    Dillon Starzi, 5-8, 250, Sr., Kearney, Mo.
    G    2    DeShaun Cooper, 5-9, 160, Sr., Union City, Calif.
    G    5    Bryston Williams, 6-4, 176, Jr., Oceanside, Calif.
    G    24    Conner Crooker, 6-1, 195, Fr., Gilbert, Ariz.

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