By BEN JOHNSON
Receiving a first-round bye in the first round of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association tournament is no longer an option. Not playing at the NSU Event Center past Wednesday is.
That’s the way things are going right now for the Northeastern State men’s basketball team.
The RiverHawks have lost six straight games and have fallen from atop the league standings to an area where they may not be able to host a first-round game in the MIAA tournament.
It’s been a disastrous 2014 so far for NSU, which entered winter break at 9-1 overall and 4-0 in conference play. Since then, the RiverHawks have won only one game in their last nine outings.
But NSU coach Larry Gipson did see a glimmer of a silver lining in a loss at Emporia State on Wednesday.
“It was one of our better efforts over the last few weeks. We haven’t been playing very well lately and we are in the midst of a tough losing streak, but we did not play like a team that was down and out,” Gipson said. “We just have too many defensive lapses. You have to also give credit to Emporia State, because they made some very tough shots under pressure.”
Meanwhile, NSU isn’t making the shots that its opponents are. In the RiverHawks’ last six games, they have managed to score more than 70 points once — and that was in a double-overtime loss to Central Oklahoma.
“We’re not that far away from putting it all together,” said Gipson, whose club was only one of two teams in the league — Central Missouri being the other — that made the NCAA tournament last season.
“We just need to tighten up.”
NSU (11-10, 6-8 MIAA) will get a chance to do so Saturday at home against Washburn (15-7, 8-7).
But before the NSU men can attempt to get back on track, the NSU women will look to continue their dominance at home. The RiverHawks (10-11, 7-7) have won four straight home contests — two over ranked opponents — since losing to Missouri Southern on Jan. 11.
The NSU women will also get a chance to pay Washburn (14-8, 9-6) back after the RiverHawks were torched, 60-37, in Topeka, Kan., on Jan. 25.
“Washburn is the only team we’re thinking about,” NSU women’s coach Randy Gipson said when asked about the RiverHawks’ next two home games — with Pittsburg State ahead on Wednesday. “We didn’t show up to compete up there (at Washburn). We feel like we can play a lot better than that. They’re a tough team with a lot of size, so that will be a challenge for us.”
Washburn at NSU
Game times: Women at 1:30; Men at 3:30.
Records: NSU 11-10 (6-8 MIAA); Washburn 15-7 (8-7).
Coaches: NSU (Larry Gipson); Washburn (Bob Chipman).
Last time out: NSU lost at Emporia State, 73-65, on Wednesday; Washburn lost at Central Oklahoma, 72-70, on Thursday.
Records: NSU 10-11 (7-7); Washburn 14-8 (9-6).
Coaches: NSU (Randy Gipson); Washburn (Ron McHenry).
Last time out: NSU lost at Emporia State, 80-61, on Wednesday; Washburn knocked off Central Oklahoma, 63-59, on Thursday in Edmond.