Bulldogs split road games

Two buzzer beating field goals decided the men’s basketball road games this past week. The Bulldogs had two of their toughest matchups this year, playing at Bellarmine University and the University of Indianapolis

Truman State University went into the week with the first place spot in the GLVC, trying to hold on against some tough conference opponents. 

Thursday’s contest had the Bulldogs facing off against the reigning conference champion Knights from Bellarmine. Truman was drawing fouls early and often to start the game. This didn’t necessarily mean foul trouble though for Bellarmine as each of its players finished the game with three fouls or less. With the help of the referees, the Bulldogs went to the free throw line 13 times and were able to convert 10 of those opportunities. Bellarmine didn’t attempt a single free throw. Truman shot 40% from the field and 29% from beyond the 3-point line. Despite this, the ’Dogs were able to take a 12-point lead into the half. 

The second half had a stark contrast in the foul game than the first half did for the Bulldogs. It was Bellarmine that became the receiver of much of the foul calls, getting forward Alex McQuinn and guard Brodric Thomas into some foul trouble. The Knights were also able to have a hot shooting performance in the half, contributing to their comeback. They made seven 3-pointers while having a field goal percentage of 57% in the half. Offensively, the Bulldogs were slowed from their first half pace. The offense seemed to stagnate a little bit when Thomas, the leading scorer of the year, sat on the bench for several minutes because of foul trouble. The game would come down to the final possession, with the Bulldogs trailing 60-58. Bellarmine decided to leave the inbounder uncovered while double teaming Thomas up the court. Forward Cade McKnight was able to inbound the ball to guard Turner Scott, who dribbled up the court, pump faked to let the defender go by and subsequently swished a leaning 3-pointer as time expired. For the second game in a row, Scott was able to make the game winning basket for the Bulldogs. He finished the game with 18 points, tying with Thomas for the team high. This marked Truman’s first win against Bellarmine since the 2016-17 season.

“Bellarmine was a huge win for us,” McKnight said. “I had never won there in my few years here, and it was the last time playing them at their place, so it was nice to steal one.”   

The Bulldogs traveled to UIndy next to potentially strengthen their hold on the top spot in conference. With a season record of 18-5, the Greyhounds looked to be a very even matchup for the 17-6 Bulldogs. UIndy came into Saturday’s game with five different players averaging more than 10 points per game, showing their willingness to spread the ball around and not letting the defense focus on one player in particular. The Greyhounds used their 57% shooting percentage to jump out to the early lead, getting some Bulldogs in foul trouble in the process. McKnight picked up some quick fouls and ended up playing 12 minutes as a result. Truman was able to survive the hot shooting by UIndy and cut the lead down to eight at halftime. 

The Bulldogs used some great shooting of their own in order to fight back in the hostile environment. They hit seven of their 11 attempted 3-pointers in the half, led by guard Hunter Strait who went four of five from 3-point range. Thomas also had three 3-pointers of his own. Both teams were consistently hitting their shots, and it became a back and forth affair. The score was tied seven times, while the lead changed hands 13 times. For the second game in a row it came down to the last possession. Scott had just given Truman a one point lead after hitting two late free throws. After a timeout, UIndy was able to inbound the ball to guard Jimmy King who raced down the court and made a tough, contested layup to down Truman at the buzzer, 83-82. King was one of five Greyhounds to score in double figures on the night. The Bulldogs had four players with double figure points and were led by Thomas and Strait with 22 and 21 points, respectively. One of the key factors was rebounding. Truman won the rebounding battle each game of its six game win streak, except for its game on Saturday. 

“They were bigger than us at most positions, which is not usually the case,” McKnight said. “They shot the ball so well that there really weren’t a lot of rebounds to get. If we can just stick to what we’re doing and crash the offensive glass and play good defense, we’re going to be able to compete with anybody.” 

The Bulldogs season record is currently 17-7, while their conference record is 13-3, which is still good enough to be the best in the GLVC. Due to the points system, UIndy overtook Truman for first place in conference with its win. Next up for the ’Dogs is a trip to Drury University on Thursday, where they can potentially right the ship. Drury has the same season record as Truman and is riding a six game win streak. The Bulldogs will then return home on Saturday for their senior day game against Southwest Baptist University

“We would love to send them out with a win,” McKnight said about this year’s seniors. “Last year we couldn’t do it, but it would be great for this year’s class to get that win.”

Truman will look to secure an undefeated home record this year of 11-0. The Bearcats are currently 18-6 on the year with a solid road record of 7-3.