For the first time since 1984, the University of Central Missouri Mules have clinched the MIAA title on their own with a narrow 65-61 win over Northwest Missouri State on the road Saturday afternoon.
Senior guard Alex Moosmann drilled a 10-foot fade-away jumper with nine seconds left to go ahead, and the Mules defense forced a guarded three that missed short on the other end to seal the win. Two Bryce Brunz free throws with one second left made it official.
Central Missouri broke the MIAA record for road wins with their ninth of the year, while the 17 MIAA wins also broke the school record. The Mules also made it the fifth 24-win season in the last six seasons. Kim Anderson already held that record with four 24-win seasons.
The Mules (24-1, 17-1 MIAA) opened up the game strong, jumping out to a 15-4 lead in the first six minutes, paced eight points from Sanijay Watts. The Bearcats (12-13, 7-11 MIAA) stayed right with the Mules over the next nine minutes with each team answering the other. Tremaine Luellen was big during the stretch for the Mules with several buckets. Central Missouri would stretch their lead to as many as 16 with 3:16 remaining in the half on a Tyler Oakley bucket off a feed from Watts. The Bearcats could only get it down to 41-28 going into the intermission.
Watts led all scorers with 13, while Luellen tallied 11 in the half. UCM hit 50 percent from the floor and used an 11-3 advantage in points off turnovers and an 18-11 rebound edge to build the lead. The Bearcats hit 42.3 percent in the period.
The second stanza saw the Bearcats make a furious run, cutting it to nine with 12:27 left, and then moving it to only two with 9:59 on the clock. The Mules held that lead until only 1:20 remained on a dish and dunk capped by Maciej Ustarbowski. The big player in the Bearcat run was leading scorer Elijah Allen, who put up 12 second period points. A huge offensive rebound by UCM’s Luellen plus a foul put him at the line with 45 seconds left and he hit one to tie it at 61. A stop on the other end gave the ball to the Mules with 20 seconds left.
Watts scored only two points in the second half thanks to a stellar defensive effort by the Bearcats. Luellen and Watts finished with 15 apiece in the game while Ryan Harris put up 13. Allen ended the contest with a game-high 20 for the Bearcats.
The MIAA title was the third under Anderson, and the 21st overall in school history. A Missouri Southern win over Fort Hays State sealed only the ninth MIAA title alone in school history.
Central Missouri will head to St. Joseph for their final road game of the regular season with Missouri Western on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m.