Wheelchair basketball suffers first losses at home

The Tigers remained positive about overall improvement despite losses.
Senior John Gilbert passes the ball to freshman Connor Downes on Saturday against Alabama at the Student Recreation Complex. The team took part in a Central Intercollegiate Division tournament against Alabama and UT Arlington last weekend.

The Missouri wheelchair basketball team went 0-4 in its home tournament Friday and Saturday. The Tigers came into the tournament with a 12-4 record, including a perfect 4-0 at home.

After Southwest Minnesota State dropped out of the tournament due to weather, the three-team tournament operated with each team facing each other Friday and Saturday.

In the Tigers' first game Friday, Texas-Arlington took control late in the game and beat the Tigers by 14 points.

Hours later, Missouri faced Alabama. The two teams traded baskets through most of the first half and stood tied at 21 with four minutes remaining before Alabama went on an 8-0 run to end the half. Missouri was able to keep Alabama within striking distance for most of the second half, but it failed to make a run before Alabama pulled away with a 64-47 victory.

Although the Tigers lost both games Friday, senior guard John Gilbert said he felt his team was improving.

"We are definitely getting better," Gilbert said. "We played both of these teams last semester and lost by much bigger margins. We just have some little things that we need to do better."

Defense, especially late in the game, was an issue players pointed to when preparing for the second day of games.

"Just playing hard the full 40 minutes," freshman forward Jake Wiig said. "We get to 30 or 35 minutes and we start dying on defense."

Gilbert said Missouri needs to play better defense and get in front of chairs better.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, the second meeting with Alabama was more of the same. Once again, the two teams traded baskets before Alabama took charge late in the second half.

Missouri found plenty of ways to score in the second half, but Alabama answered every Tiger basket with one of its own. With less than five minutes remaining, Missouri's late-game defensive woes continued as Alabama exploded to a 77-59 victory.

Much of the scoring in the first matchup with Alabama came from Wiig and freshman forward Connor Downes, but Gilbert and senior guard Andrew Tucker contributed more points in the second matchup. Tucker hit two 3-pointers Saturday afternoon against Alabama.

In their final game of the weekend and second against Texas-Arlington, the Tigers faced more of the same problems, allowing the Mavericks to jump out to a big halftime lead. Again, the Tigers got to the basket in the second half, but they could not make a push as Texas-Arlington won 44-28.

"We're getting better," coach Ron Lykins said. "In the past these teams have beat us by 30 or 40 points easily, and now they have to play hard the whole time. We kept them under 20 in all of these games."

Lykins said he was also pleased with the turnout as Missouri fans packed the bleachers on both sides of Brewer Fieldhouse.

"It was great having the fans here," Lykins said. "Obviously we wish we had more but it was nice having these people here. The guys enjoy it."

Texas-Arlington and Alabama split their meetings with each other over the weekend. Missouri will face both teams in Alabama next month.

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