Men’s basketball was able to take over first place in the GLVC after sweeping its four-game homestand over the past two weeks. To go along with their 12-2 conference record, the Bulldogs kept their undefeated record at home, having won all 10 games played at Pershing Arena this year.
The first game of the homestand pitted Truman State University against the Rockhurst University Hawks. The first matchup in Kansas City, Missouri, earlier this season ended in a three point loss for the Bulldogs, but both teams would come into the Jan. 30 game with identical season and conference records.
Truman came out playing physically, doubling the Hawks’ total rebounds in the first half, hauling in 18 total boards with four of those coming on the offensive end. Although Truman was playing physically, Rockhurst went the entire half without shooting a free throw while drawing just six fouls on the Bulldogs. Both teams made 10 field goals in the half, but Truman went into the break leading by five.
The Bulldogs came out of the half looking to put away the Hawks. Behind some extremely hot shooting, Truman was able to keep its lead growing. The ’Dogs seemed to knock down every open look they received in the second half, posting 60.7% from the field as they also knocked down seven of their 13 3-point attempts. Players were also making the extra pass until they got the look they wanted. The Bulldogs finished the game with 18 assists, compared to the Hawks’ five total assists. Five different players scored in double figures on the night, led by guard Brodric Thomas’ 18 points. The Bulldogs’ well-rounded game propelled them to an impressive 81-60 win.
William Jewell College was the next opponent to visit Truman. The Cardinals came into the game with an overall record of 8-11 and a conference record of just 3-8. Truman was on top of a very one-sided first half. Jewell made three of its 12 3-point attempts in the half, while Truman made six 3-pointers on one less attempt than the Cardinals. The Bulldogs were sharing the ball just as well as they had in the previous game, and they tallied 13 assists on their 17 field goals in the half. Truman built a large cushion for itself, leading Jewell 45-28 at halftime.
The Bulldogs were able to carry over their hot shooting from the previous game, and for the third straight half they made over 60% of their field goals. For the game, Truman shot 61.8% from the field and 56.5% on 3-pointers. The ’Dogs once again dominated on the backboards, grabbing 36 rebounds compared to the Cardinals’ 20 boards. With their 21 assists on the night, the Bulldogs were one shy of tying their season high in that category. Truman won the game 92-63, setting a new season high for total points in a game. Offensively, the Bulldogs relied heavily on the starters who ended up scoring 78 points, with each player reaching double figures. Truman improved its record to 14-6 and kept its undefeated record at Pershing this year.
The Bulldogs continued conference play when they hosted Lindenwood University. Lindenwood came to Kirksville looking to end its nine game losing streak. Truman was able to grab the early lead in what was a sloppy first half of basketball. Lindenwood went 0-8 from the 3-point line in the half, while Truman’s 50% field goal percentage helped it go into halftime with a nine point advantage.
Lindenwood was able to claw its way back into the game in the second half, thanks to the Lions only missing two of their nine 3-point attempts in the half. In order to secure the win, Truman relied heavily on forward Cade McKnight and Thomas. McKnight scored 14 points in the half, and Thomas was not far behind with 12 for the Bulldogs. The game ended up coming down to the wire as Truman was up by one, but the Lions had the ball with a chance to take the lead. The Bulldogs were able to get the stop they needed when Thomas grabbed his fourth steal of the game and hit a free throw to give Truman a gritty 72-70 win. Truman moved its conference record to 11-2, while the Lions record fell to 2-11.
The Bulldogs final opponent of the four game homestand was the University of Missouri-St. Louis. UMSL came into the game with a 20-3 season record, good enough to be ranked No. 13 in the country. Both teams entered with the same conference record, and the winner would walk away with sole possession of first place in the GLVC. Truman played a defensively strong first half, holding the Tritons to 30% shooting from the field and outrebounding them by 12. They were led offensively by Thomas, who recorded a double-double in the half with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Truman held a 12-point lead at halftime because of its well rounded play.
UMSL started its comeback by doubling the field goal percentage it shot in the first half, hitting 60% of its field goals. The Tritons were led by guard/forward Jose Grubbs, who tallied 25 points while going five for five from 3-point range. With 10 seconds left in the game, the score was tied at 71, and Truman had possession. Point guard Turner Scott was able to drive and get fouled with 0.5 seconds left.
“The goal was to actually go baseline then throw a hammer pass to [Thomas],” Scott said. “But they knew the play was coming … I just had to make a play and luckily I got fouled.”
Scott went to the line and made one of two free throws, clinching the 72-71 win for the Bulldogs. Truman was led once again by Thomas, who scored 27 points for the second game in a row, went 15-15 from the free throw line and finished two assists shy of a triple-double. This was the Bulldogs’ fifth straight win, tying their season high.
Truman will look to defend its first place spot in conference with its next game Feb. 13 at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky.
“Bellarmine is so well coached and they play super hard, so we know we’re going to be in for a dogfight,” Scott said.
The Bulldogs might be catching Bellarmine at the right time, though, as the 12th ranked Knights lost both of their games last week to teams that Truman has already defeated. William Jewell was able to beat the Knights in overtime and Rockhurst secured a four point win against them on Saturday. Truman will enter the game with the top spot in conference, while Bellarmine is ranked third.