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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • S&T men's, women's basketball hosts Westminster

  • Ready or not, season opens Friday at Bullman Building.
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  • Ready or not, the season officially begins for the Missouri S&T women's and men's basketball teams tonight.
    The S&T basketball squads will host a men's/women's doubleheader against NCAA Division III foe Westminster tonight at the Gale Bullman Multi-Purpose Building.
    The women's game is to begin at 5:30 p.m. with the men's game following at 7:30 p.m.
    Whereas it will count as the season-openers for the S&T teams, today's contests will be exhibitions for the Westminster Blue Jays squads, due to their Division III affiliation.

    Women's Game
    S&T returns eight letterwinners from last season's 16-12 squad but just one full-time starter.
    "We're as ready as we're going to get," said Alan Eads, the program's all-time winningest coach who is entering his 12th season. "I don't know if you're ever ready for the first game...but we're ready to play."
    S&T had a dress rehearsal last Saturday by beating Livin' The Dream 72-62 in an exhibition game.
    "It showed us some causes for concern," Eads said of the exhibition. "Our big kids have got to score more, our defense has got to get better and we've got to become a better free throw shooting team."
    It will be the sixth meeting in the series between S&T and the Blue Jays, with S&T holding a 5-0 lead. Last season the Lady Miners knocked off Westminster 59-41.
    However, Westminster went on to have a solid season under head coach Tracy Braden, finishing 17-11 and winning the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament championship.
    The Blue Jays return 13 players off of last season's team, but just one starter.
    Senior Leigh Ann Lutz, a 5-6 guard, is that player, leading the squad in scoring last season at 14.1.
    Also back is 5-5 sophomore guard sophomore Mackenzie Haddox (8.1 points) and 6-1 junior forward Danielle Williams (2.9 rebounds).
    There are two former Rolla High School players on the Blue Jay roster, although it was not clear if they will be part of the varsity roster playing against S&T or on the junior varsity roster. The two Rolla natives on the Westminster squad are 5-6 sophomore guard-forward Megan McCaul and 5-9 freshman guard-forward Andrea Zalis.
    The lone full-time starter back for S&T is 6-2 senior forward Kylie Cooper (7.2 points, 6.2 rebounds). Also back for S&T is 5-9 senior guard Toni Knar (9.0 points), 5-11 senior forward Karli Sample (6.0 points, 3.8 rebounds), 5-8 senior Erica Askew (team-high 19 points in Saturday's exhibition), 5-7 sophomore guard Dajae Williams, 5-6 senior guard Senait McLeod, 6-4 sophomore forward Leigh-Ann Kesper and 6-0 junior forward Joslyn Arthur.
    Page 2 of 3 - Lady Miner newcomers expecting to see action are 5-9 junior transfer guard Mia Wesley, 5-9 junior transfer guard-forward Jaaron Kassanavoid and 5-9 freshman guard Elsie Greenwood.
    Askew is playing despite haveing a torn labrum which "will be an issue for her all year," Eads said.
    And the coach likes what he's seen from Greenwood.
    "We're excited about our lone freshman," he said. "She works hard, plays hard and has a lot of basketball skills."

    Men's Game
    Miner head coach Jim Glash welcomes back some familiar faces from the injury list this season as well as a full load of new freshmen.
    However, two of the new recruits will not be suited up for the opener.
    "You're always excited about the first game," said Glash, entering his fifth full season as Miner head coach. "And this first game isn't one of those easy first games; Westminster poses a threat for us. They're one of the best Division III programs in the country. I have the utmost respect for Coach (Matt) Mitchell."
    Mitchell has a 207-178 record in 15 seasons with the Blue Jays, including at least 17 wins in each of the last six years.
    The Westminster Blue Jays are coming off a 19-7 record, finishing second in the SLIAC in 2012-13. Top players back for the Jays include 6-2 junior guard Verdis Lee (13.1 points) and 6-2 senior guard Joe James (12.4).
    One of the players on the Blue Jay roster will be 6-2 sophomore guard Jay Zalis, a former standout player at Rolla High School. Westminster has another former RHS player in 6-4 sophomore forward Keegan Garner, but he will miss tonight's game with a knee injury.
    In fact, Zalis, Garner and S&T 6-0 sophomore guard Mike Miller were all teammates for the Rolla Bulldogs.
    The Miners lead the all-time series between the two schools 39-33, including the last 19 meetings dating back to 1974.
    Last season S&T needed a three-pointer by 6-1 senior Mudiaga Eruteya at the buzzer to get past the Blue Jays 77-74. Westminster had overcome an 11-point halftime deficit.
    "I thought they outplayed us in several aspects last year," Glash said. "They'll be coming in knowing they can beat us."
    S&T's first-year assistant coach, Marques Baldwin, was formerly the assistant at Westminster.
    The Miners are attempting to rebound from a 7-18 campaign last season and have their top two scorers back as well as two other starters returning from injury who played a combined nine games in 2012-13.
    Senior guards Eruteya and Nusrath Khan return to the lineup after averaging 13.6 and 11.2 points respectively last season. Eruteya was also the team's top rebounder a season ago at 7.5.
    Page 3 of 3 - And back after respective surgeries that ended last season early are 6-4 senior guard-forward Bryce Foster (foot) and 6-2 redshirt freshman guard Aaron Emmanuel (knee); both starters before going down.
    Other returners back are 6-5 junior forward Curtis Okafor (3.6 points), 6-0 sophomore guard Zach Ellis (8.6 points), 6-7 sophomore forward Michael Nesbitt (7.0 points, 4.6 rebounds) and Miller.
    True freshman on the squad are 6-1 guard Danylo Zuikov, 6-4 forward Chinomso Ebube, 6-2 guard Clifford Dunigan, 6-4 forward Tyler Anderson and 6-8 post Justin Kurash.
    Kurash and Zuikov were projected starters but neither will be in uniform tonight due to injury. Kurash suffered a broken foot in conditioning drills and isn't expected back until around the holiday break. Zuikov suffered an ankle injury last week and will be sidelined tonight.
    "I'm most excited about our seniors," Glash said. "This team has the best senior leadership I've ever had. But with the injuries to our freshmen we are tremendously depleted from a depth standpoint."
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