MacMurray defeats Webster, ends win streak

MACKENZIE WILDER / The Journal Aaron Griffin, junior center, protects the ball as he moves into a layup. The Gorloks beat Spalding University by one point, 58-57, on Jan. 23.
Aaron Griffin, junior center, protects the ball as he moves into a layup. The Gorloks beat Spalding University by one point, 58-57, on Jan. 23.

Trailing by 11 points in the first half, MacMurray College fought its way back to beat Webster University, 62-67. With the win, MacMurray improves to 12-4 overall and 8-1 in conference play.

MacMurray managed to stay tied for first place in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) with Spalding University. Forward Hunter Sutton led the way for the Highlanders as he came off the bench to score 15 points and grab eight rebounds.

Entering the game on Saturday, Jan. 25, the Webster men’s basketball team was in a three-way tie for first place with a record of 10-5 and riding a five-game winning streak. Despite Webster junior guard Ahmad Smith’s 17 points and sophomore Kevin Miller’s fifth double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) of the season, Webster could not get the job done.

Freshman guard and forward Hunter Ward said after the game that it was close, but Webster just did not get the calls it needed.

“It was neck-and-neck all game. We couldn’t get a call to save our life, but we played fairly well — just didn’t come out on top,” Ward said.

The loss dropped Webster’s record to 10-6 and 7-2 in conference play, knocking the Gorloks down to third place in the conference standings. The loss comes two days after Webster extended its win streak to five games by beating first place Spalding University, 58-57.

Webster’s junior center Aaron Griffin was held to just two points, making only one of five shots. Griffin played with a bad ankle, which was the cause of him leaving the game Thursday, Jan. 23, against Spalding.

Going into Saturday’s game, Webster was off to its best start since the 2010-11 season with a record of 10-5. With the loss, Webster trails MacMurray and Spalding for first place by one game. The Gorloks’ next three conference games are against teams who have losing records and are in the bottom of the standings. Webster and MacMurray will play again on Saturday, Feb. 8, at Webster’s Grant Gymnasium.

So far, Webster’s success this season has largely been helped by its defense. According to SLIAC’s stats, Webster’s defense is first in the conference in terms of defensive rebounds per game (25), steals per game (11), fewest points allowed per game (60) and holding opponents to a conference-best at 36.2 percent shooting.

Miller said the team’s offensive efficiency is the one thing they have to work on to be successful in the final stretch of the season.

“We don’t really struggle giving up a lot of points, but we struggle scoring them sometimes,” Miller said.

Webster is in the bottom half of the conference in a few offensive categories such as points per game (70), three-pointers made per game (4), free throw percentage (65.1 percent) and offensive rebounds per game (9).

Head Coach Chris Bunch installed a new offense tactic this year that focuses more on getting the ball inside to the centers. It is different from the playbook from years past that focused more on guard play.

Bunch explained his previous playbook during an earlier interview with The Journal. Bunch said the guards were forced to shoot from within the three-point line. This created a mismatch against teams with taller players.

“I just really try and get the best guys I can and then fit whatever style fits them the best,” Bunch said in December.

Webster will try to get back in the win column in its next game at Blackburn College at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29.

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