ROLLA, Mo. – A rough stretch to begin the second half was costly for Missouri S&T's men's basketball team Saturday afternoon, as Missouri Western handed the Miners their first loss of the season with an 89-79 win at Gibson Arena.
S&T (2-1) led by as much as 12 in the first half and carried a one-point lead into the second half, but were outscored by the Griffons (4-1) 18-6 over the first half and a half minutes as the visitors took control of the contest and then held off the Miners' late rally effort.
After the game went back-and-forth over the first several minutes, the Miners took a lead they would hold for the balance of the first half when CJ Hedgepeth (Evansville, IN/Harrison) drained a three-pointer at the 14:28 mark. S&T used a 9-2 burst shortly thereafter to extend their lead to six, then built it out to 12 with a 7-0 run that concluded with a pair of free throws from Romain Louiserre (La Ferte Alais, France/Fredrick Fays) with 6:24 to play in the half.
Western began chipping away at the margin, getting it down to a point before halftime on a lay-in by Lavon Hightower – who led all scorers in the game with 24 points – then took a lead it would never relinquish after another basket by Hightower in the opening minute of the second half.
The Griffon lead reached 11 at the conclusion of the run that began the half, then eventually grew to 13 with just over nine minutes remaining following a basket by Jalen Gant.
S&T tried to make a late comeback effort, trimming the Western lead to six on Jordan Newt's (San Francisco, CA/Malibu) three-point basket with 2:21 remaining. The Miners got a defensive stop, but missed two chances to get closer before Hightower got the lead back to eight again with 1:23 to go.
The Griffons held the Miners to 40.3 percent from the floor and to just three baskets from beyond the arc. S&T did have five players in double figures in the game, led by Hedgepeth with 14 points and Yahmir Muhammad (Rockford, IL/Auburn) with 13. Juwan Miller (Kitchener, Ont./Huron Heights) and Ervin Sarajlic (St. Louis, MO/Oakville) had 12 apiece and Louiserre ended up with 11.
Tyrell Carroll added 19 points for Missouri Western to compliment the 24 scored by Hightower, who had 12 rebounds as well as the Griffons held a 38-35 edge on the boards.
Missouri S&T will have a short turnaround before it returns to action, as it will head to Kansas City for a Monday afternoon contest against Lincoln at Municipal Auditorium as part of the MIAA Men's Basketball Challenge. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.