Courtesy of Midland Athletics
FREMONT, Neb. – Midland University men’s basketball faced off against Morningside University on Saturday afternoon in a Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) matchup. The Warriors saw their five-game winning streak snapped as their final shot just missed off the rim at the buzzer, falling 73-72. The loss drops them to 14-5 on the season and 5-4 in the GPAC while the Mustangs improve to 9-5 and 6-3 in the conference.
The Warriors were in control early in the game, leading by as many as nine points by the 6:03 mark of the first half. Their offense was spurred by Emmanuel Bryson’s burst of energy off the bench. Bryson was everywhere for the Warriors in the half, recording 15 points, 4 rebounds, and dishing out a couple of assists too.
Midland’s momentum cooled off as the Mustangs found their groove from the perimeter, led by Tyler Vavrina who shot a perfect 3-of-3 from deep in the first. Morningside finished the half on a 15-6 run and held a narrow 39-35 lead at intermission.
An 8-0 run midway through the second half, allowed Midland to regain the lead, 50-46, with 13:47 left. The two sides then began to trade shots back and forth. Neither team gained more than a two-possession lead the rest of the game.
With 1:31 remaining, Zach Imig gave the Mustangs their largest advantage in over nine minutes as his layup brought the score to 73-70. Laurence Merritt responded with a layup on the other end for the Warriors, shrinking the deficit to just one point.
After subsequent misses for both sides, the Warriors found themselves with possession, still down a point. After the Mustangs gave a pair of fouls to compress the time of the final possession, the Warriors inbounded the ball to Laurence Merritt who took the ball and drove into the paint. On the drive, he appeared to injure himself as he tried to come to a stop and was forced to launch up a prayer as time dwindled. The shot came up just short as for the Warriors who were looking to end a nine-game winning by the Mustangs.
Merritt and Jake Rueschhoff led the scoring attack for Midland after Bryson, 15 points, was injured early in the second half. Merritt finished with 17 points and Rueschhoff added 16 points while dishing out 9 assists.
“To only lose the by one when you get outrebounded by 17, I don’t know what the analytics say, but you’re typically going to get beat by a lot more,” said head coach Oliver Drake in his postgame comments. “I thought we got beat up on the glass. I don’t think we competed very well there.”
Midland was outrebounded by Morningside 44 to 27. The Mustangs also had a 15 to 6 advantage in points from the free-throw line, 15-for-19 compared to 6-for-6.
“Both teams take pride in their defense and today’s game showed that. There is a reason they’ve won our league the last four years. We are definitely still a work in progress. I really like our group and I think our guys will respond the right way.”
Midland (14-5, 5-4 GPAC) will look to get back to their winning ways in their next GPAC matchup, facing Dakota Wesleyan (6-10, 3-6 GPAC) on Wednesday, January 12. Tip-off is set for 7:45 p.m. at The World’s Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota.