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Northwest Basketball Ready for Gauntlet Stretch

The Bearcats play five MIAA games in the next nine games.
(MARYVILLE, Mo.) An 8-5 start to the season has Northwest Men's Basketball ranked fourth in the MIAA. It's not a bad spot, but doesn't light the world on fire for the Bearcats, who have higher standards for this season.

But, Northwest will have plenty of chances to prove themselves again over the next week and a half.

"Five games in nine days? That's literally one day to prepare for each game." head coach Ben McCollum said. "In about a week we'll know where we stand."

A mandatory one-week break meant a lull in the action for MIAA teams, but the Bearcat men and women are bursting into the new year. With Monday's game against Northeastern State (Okla.) rescheduled for next Monday, Northwest now plays a quarter of its conference schedule in the next nine days. 

"Coming off a week of practice and only one game, I think we're really looking forward to a lot of games," forward Kyle Schlake said.

"This is where we really need to come together and show teams and ourselves what we're made of," guard Bryston Williams said. 

Northwest is coming off its first MIAA loss after blowing a second half lead against Central Oklahoma on Saturday. Now, comped an extra day to prepare for the upcoming gauntlet, McCollum is stressing the word "finish". 

"It's going to come down to who wins the game when they don't play well," he said. "To be honest, I don't know if we've done that this year."

It's a critical stretch for at team that lost to Central Missouri in the MIAA Tournament Championship last year and were perhaps one conference win away from an at-large NCAA Tournament berth. The holdovers aren't forgetting that and say they'll need a better effort going forward if they want to get there.

"I don't think any of us pictured us 8-5 right now," Schlake said. "Not exactly how we pictured our senior years to go. I don't think any of us though that'd be the case."

"Everybody talks about our seniors and our core, but it's not going to mean anything if we don't bring it all together," Williams added.

The Bearcats open up the stretch at Nebraska-Kearney on Thursday.
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