Alone atop the MIAA in first place, No. 24 Northwest Missouri State has a chance to add to its list of road victims Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against Missouri Western in St. Joseph.
The depleted Bearcats (11-2, 4-0) beat Missouri Southern 69-68 in overtime and Pittsburg State 62-51 on the road last week, giving them three straight wins since dropping back-to-back games in Hawaii.
One more over the Griffons (6-7, 2-3) would give them a sweep of their three-game road stretch to start 2013.
"I think the Missouri Southern game got us off to a good start on the road, and obviously Pittsburg State was exceptional," said Northwest Missouri State head coach Ben McCollum. "Now, we just got to continue to improve and get better. If we use these wins and stay with the process, it will be great. If we don't, they won't help us much."
Northwest has had the last the week off to recuperate from two games in less than 48 hours, while
Western played Wednesday night and rallied in the second half to beat Nebraska-Kearney 75-64 on the road.
It was the Griffons second win in their last three games. They also beat Central Oklahoma on a last-second shot in Edmond, Okla. before losing to Missouri Southern 95-69 Saturday.
Northwest has had Western's number of late, winning five consecutive meetings dating back to the 2009-2010 season to give them a 41-34 edge in the series.
That includes wins at the MWSU Fieldhouse each of the last two years.
McCollum credits point guard DeShaun Cooper's ability to get in the lane almost at will for Northwest's success against Western during his tenure.
However, the 5-8 point guard will miss Saturday's game with knee tendinitis, forcing the Bearcats to attack in a different way.
"DeShaun has broken them down pretty easily and that's affected them," said McCollum. "It's just a matchup that seems to work."
This matchup pits the No. 1 scoring defense in the MIAA against the league's worst scoring offense.
Northwest is giving up a league-low 59.5 points per game and has yet to allow 70 points in a game this year. The Bearcats just held Pitt State, the league's No. 4 scoring offense, over 26 points below its season average.
Missouri Western averages just 67.7 points per game and is 14th in the league in three-point shooting at 30.5 percent. The Griffons have attempted the third-most three's in the league and made the fifth-most.
As usual, Western's roster is stocked with junior college transfers. Their only contributors back from last year are senior guard James Harris, sophomore guard Reed Mells and senior combo guard Alex Tuluka-Mfumupembe.
Western's leading scorer and rebounder is 6-7 junior transfer forward Cedric Clinckscales with 14.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. He's second in the MIAA in field goal percentage just ahead of Northwest's Dillon Starzl.
Page 2 of 2 - Adarius Fulton, a 6-2 junior guard, averages 10.1 points per game and leads the Griffons in steals and assists. Dzenan Mrkaljevic, a 6-8 junior forward, is the team's second leading rebounder and averages 8.0 points per game.
"They play a lot of guys that can step out and shoot," said McCollum. "I know they're not shooting a high percentage, but they brought in a lot of shooters. They can space the floor. Defensively, they play all zone which I don't think anybody in the league plays all zone. We got to prepare for that. Outside of that, they're kind of the same Missouri Western team they've been in the past. We have to be ready. They're going to give us their best shot."
Northwest currently has three players averaging in double-figures led by DeAngelo Hailey with 14.6 points per game. Starzl is second with 14.0 points per game and averaged 19 in Northwest's two road wins last week.
Alex Sullivan is averaging 12.6 points per game and leads the MIAA in three-pointers made. Starting point guard Matt Wallace is tops in the MIAA in assist-to-turnover ratio.