Missouri wheelchair basketball shines in competition

Center Jacob Wiig said the team puts in just as much time practicing as any other Tiger sports team.
An MU player reaches over a block attempt and scores. MU defeated the Missouri Predators 64-20 in their tournament game at the Student Recreation Complex.

The Missouri Tigers wheelchair basketball team won in convincing fashion Wednesday night as it defeated the Missouri Predators by a final score of 64-20.

Tigers coach Ron Lykins said many believe the game is slow without much action, but Wednesday night's game confirmed that wheelchair basketball certainly does not lack action and is not, by any means, a slow game.

From the first possession until the final buzzer, the game was extremely physical. As a person who has played both able-bodied basketball and wheelchair basketball, Tiger player Robert Doyle made note of the toughness exhibited on the court.

"It's definitely more physical, and there is definitely more banging around than you would see in an able-bodied basketball game," Doyle said.

The game was so physical that play had to be stopped twice because of players falling over after a collision.

"Falling is a normal part of the game," said Doyle, who said he has played in games where falling occurred as many as 10 times.

Along with physicality, speed is a key component of the game. Being fluid and having the ability to change directions quickly is a key to success in wheelchair basketball.

Doyle made it clear that such ability does not come easy. At one point in his life, he would spend two hours every Saturday working on sharpening his skills.

Doyle is not the only Tiger committed to improving. The team practices for two hours every weekday, and in turn are very well conditioned to handle such a fast-paced game. Tigers big man Jacob Wiig said he believes such conditioning is a major reason the Tigers were able to easily defeat a team like the Predators, who practice once a week.

"Anyone that's seen our games or our practices, they can definitely see the work we put in," Wiig said. "We put just as much work in as any other athletic team."

Team unity is also a major key to success on the court, Doyle said. Even with the game firmly in their grasp, Tiger players who were on the bench would constantly yell and cheer on their teammates. The players get together off the court and have a collective understanding of the importance of team chemistry, he said.

On the other side, it was clear very early in the game that the Predators were overmatched and had no answer for the imposing Wiig. Lykins praised the Predators, saying they "played the game right and they are just competitors."

The Tigers will continue their season Dec. 16 when they play in the Gorilla Invitational in Pittsburg, Kan.

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