The men’s basketball team finished its regular season this past weekend, going 3-1 in its last four games and making Truman State University the co-champion of the GLVC. With its share of the regular season title, it marks the first time since the 1978-79 season that Truman was recognized as regular season conference champs.
The four game stretch started on the road against the 18-6 Panthers of Drury University. Truman struggled to hit shots in the first half, going six for 20 from the field for a 30% field goal percentage. On the other end of the court, the Panthers made six 3-pointers to help them jump out with an early lead. The ’Dogs found themselves trailing by 17 at halftime.
Truman needed an influx of energy in the second half, however, that energy never showed up for the Bulldogs. Forward Alex McQuinn was the only player to register double digit points for the ’Dogs, tallying a season high 14 points. Turnovers were a large problem for the Bulldogs as they gave the ball away 23 times. The Panthers were able to convert those extra possessions into 35 points of their own. Drury held onto its lead and defeated the Bulldogs by a final of 71-52.
Truman’s next game was Senior Day and its final home game of the year against Southwest Baptist University. Offensively, the Bulldogs were sharing the ball, registering 10 assists in the first half. The duo of forward Cade McKnight and guard Brodric Thomas was on full display as they both registered double digit points by halftime. With a lot of help from McKnight and Thomas, the Bulldogs shot 53.6% from the field.
Truman was up by nine at the start of the second half and never looked back. Nine different players scored in the second half for the ’Dogs. As a whole, the team kept up its hot shooting as they shot 59.3% from the field, high enough to take down the Bearcats. Truman also only turned the ball over five times, a stark difference from its previous game. The Bearcats weren’t able to get much going offensively, and they shot 42.3% from the field and 37.5% from 3-point range.
“We got back to playing our brand of defense,” McKnight said. “Just making them uncomfortable and forcing them into late clock situations to take tough shots.”
The Bulldogs controlled the ball and played tough defense, two of the biggest factors that led them to a win on Senior Day, 83-59.
Truman then traveled to St. Louis the following week to face off against Maryville University. Coming into the game, Maryville was ranked last in the GLVC standings with a conference record of 1-17. The Bulldogs outplayed the Saints in every facet of the game. Despite relatively close field goal percentages overall, Truman used its 3-point shooting to build its lead. Maryville made one 3-pointer compared to Truman’s six in the first half, and the Bulldogs would go into half time leading by that 15-point margin.
The ’Dogs kept adding on in the second half thanks in large part to their defensive efforts and getting out in transition. Truman forced 16 turnovers and dominated the glass, only allowing five offensive rebounds for the Saints while corralling 27 defensive rebounds. Fast break offense played a big role for the Bulldogs, and they had 24 fast break points and 21 points off turnovers on the night. With the help of 41 bench points, the lead kept growing and the ’Dogs eventually won the game 94-65.
For its final game of the regular season, Truman travelled to Rolla to take on the struggling Miners from the Missouri University of Science and Technology. The Miners came into the game in 15th place out of 16 teams in the GLVC, one spot ahead of Maryville. Truman put together their third great half of basketball in a row, using the 3-pointer to gain an advantage once again. Led by Thomas’ hot shooting, the ’Dogs made 54.6% of their 3-point attempts in the half, while the Miners only made 30.8%. Truman took a healthy 11-point lead into the halftime break.
The Bulldogs’ shooting only got better in the second half, and they made 53.1% of their field goals and added six more 3-pointers to their first half total. Four different players scored in double figures for Truman, but Thomas carried most of the scoring load with his 34 points, just one point shy of tying his career high. He did set a new career high for 3-pointers made though, making seven of his eight attempts. Truman’s defense stifled the Miners all day, allowing them to only shoot 32.8% from the field for the entire game. After another 11-point margin in the second half, the Bulldogs won the game 89-67.
By winning its final three games, Truman finished the regular season with an overall record of 20-8 and a conference record of 16-4. With such a strong conference record, Truman was able to be named the co-champion of the GLVC for the regular season, tying with the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
“At the beginning of the year we talked about it and we believed we could do it,” assistant coach Austin McBeth said. “The fact that we accomplished what we set out to do, I think it goes so far, especially because most of these dudes are coming back … Now they’ve seen it, they know what it takes and that’s how you build tradition.”
In the process of capturing the conference title, the ’Dogs also clinched an undefeated home season, winning all 11 games played in Pershing Arena.
Next up for Truman is the conference tournament, for which the Bulldogs are seeded third. They will take on Rockhurst University for the third time this season at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 6 in Edwardsville, Illinois.