Grizzlies start season with solid win over Nation Wide Academy

Freshman forward Sardaar Calhoun (No. 1) maneuvers around a couple of defenders during Thursday’s season home opener against Nation Wide Academy from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Missouri State-West Plains Photo)
Freshman forward Sardaar Calhoun (No. 1) maneuvers around a couple of defenders during Thursday’s season home opener against Nation Wide Academy from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Missouri State-West Plains Photo)

West Plains, Mo. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team started the 2018-19 season on a positive note Thursday evening, Nov. 1, with a 90-72 win over Nation Wide Academy at the West Plains Civic Center.

"Overall, I was pleased," Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Chris Popp said. "I like the direction we're going. It could have been better, but I'm pleased with how they performed."

The 16th-ranked Grizzlies found themselves in a tough back-and-forth battle against the Bengals from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in the first half. But they bounced back in the second and took control, going up by as many as 21 points before settling for the 18-point victory.

"I never thought offense would be an issue with our group, but we were slow out of the gates offensively," the coach said. "Defensively, it seemed the opposite.. We held them to 30 points in the first half. That was solid. They had stretches where they put together runs and exposed some things. That will be good for us as we work to get better."

Illness, injuries affect game flow

A couple of Grizzlies did not take the court due to injury or illness, and that played a factor in the game's flow, especially from the point guard position, Popp said. 

"Every team needs a catalyst, and we do a lot through our point guards," he explained. "Dravon Clayborn got in foul trouble, and Da'Vantre Vitor was sick and did not play."

The Grizzlies also were without the talents of sophomore forward Henri Langton, but freshman forward Alex Peterson filled the spot and scored 13 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.

"Alex stepped in hand had some big minutes for us," Popp said. "He's very active and plays really hard. He's got a chance to be a very good player."

Five Grizzlies score in double figures

Peterson was one of five Grizzlies who scored in double figures. Leading the way was freshman forward Sardaar Calhoun with 16 points. Sophomore forward Burone Edwards added 14 points, and Clayborn and sophomore guard Eric Lovett each scored 12.

Popp also was pleased with the play of freshman guard D'Andre Vilmar. "D'Andre is coming off knee surgery, but he's playing well and getting better every day. He simply makes good plays and rarely hurts you," the coach said.

The Grizzlies begin their first road trip today. They will travel to Lewisville, Texas, near Dallas to compete in the 6th Annual Texas East-West Challenge this weekend. They will face Lee College, Baytown, Texas, at 2 p.m. Saturday and 15th-ranked Trinity Valley Community College, Athens, Texas, at 2 p.m. Sunday.

"We had our first home game against a solid team last night, but this weekend's games will show us a little more where we are and where we need to improve," Popp said.

"We've got a long way to go. We've got to fix some things, but they're fixable. We'll spend the day on the bus, watching film and getting better," he added.

For more information about the Grizzly Basketball program, visit the team's website or call 417-255-7991.

For complete statistics of the Grizzlies' games this season, visit the team's NJCAA page.