Men’s basketball had a strong winter break despite a tough road schedule.
During the winter interim, the Truman State University men’s basketball team was able to win six of its eight games, pushing their record to 11-5 overall and 7-1 in the GLVC, good enough for third place.
The Bulldogs began their break with their toughest opponent of the year in Maryville, Missouri, with the second ranked Northwest Missouri State University Bearcats. Two weeks prior, the Bearcats lost their first game in over two years at the hands of the University of Central Missouri Mules. Truman struggled to convert on its opportunities, making only 29.6% of their three pointers and allowing 22 points off turnovers. The Bearcats took down the Bulldogs 81-66 behind their hot 50.8% shooting percentage.
Truman finished the road trip by splitting the next two games with the William Jewell College Cardinals and the Rockhurst University Hawks. The ’Dogs had a great shooting night against the Cardinals, going 27 of 55 from the field and nailing 16 of their 18 free throws. After outscoring the Cardinals by 16 in the second half, Truman won by a score of 78-63.
The Bulldogs unfortunately were not able to keep their hot shooting going into the next game in Kansas City at Rockhurst University. Truman turned the ball over 19 times and only shot 50% from the free throw line in a close 56-53 loss to the Hawks.
“Nobody could put the ball in the basket,” guard Hunter Strait said after the loss. “We played great defense, made things hard on them all night and had a chance to win at the buzzer, but sometimes shots just don’t fall.”
The ’Dogs returned home after going 1-2 on the road trip and began a four-game homestand with a gaudy win against the Miners of Missouri University of Science and Technology. Three Bulldogs scored at least 17 points, putting on a show on the offensive end. Defensively, the Bulldogs kept the Miners to just 33.9% shooting from the field and 31% shooting from three point range. Truman went on to win 86-60, holding the Miners to their second lowest point total of the season.
The Bulldogs hosted the Maryville University Saints in their next game and had another strong defense. Maryville shot 35.1% from the field and a measly 12.5% from three point range. Truman didn’t need to do much offensively thanks to its play on the other end, and won the game handily 65-48. This loss kept the Saints winless in conference, leaving their record at 0-5.
The Prairie Stars from the University of Illinois-Springfield were the next team to face off against Truman in Pershing Arena. The Bulldogs won the turnover battle, only giving it away eight times compared to the Prairie Stars’ 14. Strait led the way on the offensive end with 19 points, splashing five of his nine attempts behind the three point line on the way to the Bulldogs 74-61 victory.
Truman looked to close the homestand strong with a win against Lewis University. The Bulldogs outscored the Flyers by 19 in the first half while the Flyers only shot 25.9% from the field. Offensively, the ’Dogs kept the ball moving as they had 21 assists and four players scored in double figures. Truman blew out the Flyers 85-58, ending the homestand 4-0 and preserving its perfect home record of 6-0.
The Bulldogs started the next road trip at Quincy University to take on the Hawks for the second time this year. Brodric Thomas and Cade McKnight led offensively. Thomas scored 28 on 10-16 shooting while McKnight had 27 points and made 13 of his 18 attempts. Truman’s 84-70 win pushed their conference record to 7-1 on the year and 11-5 overall.
The Bulldogs finished the break on a hot streak, winning their last five games by at least 13 points.
“We’re playing great basketball right now,” Strait said. “Our focus is on keeping our energy and motivation high through the hardest part of our schedule so when the end of the season does come we’re ready for anything that the postseason might throw at us.”
The Bulldogs will try to keep the streak alive when they take the court Jan. 25 in Evansville, Indiana, at the University of Southern Indiana.