SIOUX CITY | The holidays are over and now it's time for Morningside to head into the teeth of a difficult Great Plains Athletic Conference men's basketball schedule.
In coaching lingo, there's always room for improvement, but Mustang boss Jim Sykes liked what he saw in his team's final performance of 2017, a 102-84 victory over Culver-Stockton in the Briar Cliff Holiday Classic Saturday.
“We came out and played with some energy for 40 minutes and that's what we needed to do,” Sykes said. “I don't think we did that yesterday (win over York) but our guys did a nice job today.”
Six players reached double figures for the Mustangs, ranked No. 10 in NAIA Division II, and Morningside got 41 points from its bench while improving to 12-3 overall.
The Mustangs had to overcome another scoring explosion by Culver-Stockton's Mike Johnson, who poured in 37 points after dropping 35 on Briar Cliff Friday.
“I'm telling you, that guys a handfull,” Sykes said. “He's a very good player and we couldn't stop him. I think he can be stopped maybe, but we didn't do a very good job of it. But we did a decent job overall, we moved the ball and shared it well on offense. They scored 84 points, but it was a pretty good defensive effort as well.”
Brody Eggers led the balanced Morningside ledger with 17 points. Tyler Borchers posted a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while freshman Zach Imig matched his career high with 16 points. Ben Hoskins (13), Matthew Hahn (11) and Trey Brown (10) combined for 34 points off the bench.
“We've had a really tough schedule, we've played a lot of different teams with a lot of different styles,” Culver-Stockton Coach Jack Schrader said. “It was really great for us to come up here because they play good basketball fundamentally, move the ball, can really shoot it well, change up defenses. That just makes you a better team playing against teams of high caliber that do different things and do them really well.”
Schrader, a former Arizona State cager, is in his seventh season at Culver-Stockton but has registered 250 victories in 22 seasons as a collegiate head coach. He played for two Sun Devil teams that advanced to the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament. Schrader was a 1975 draft choice of the Phoenix Suns.
Culver-Stockton, which competes in the NAIA Division I Heart of America Athletic Conference, has just three wins this season, but that's two more than it had all of last season.
“Mike (Johnson) is just a competitor and that shows through in everything he does,” Schrader said. “He means a lot to the team and I'm glad to have him. I don't know what we'd do without him. We're real young and inexperienced and we've had some personnel changes but I think we're getting better. Hopefully these games will make us better for our conference schedule.”
Morningside went on three major runs in the first half, taking a 47-36 lead at intermission. After Culver-Stockton scored the first eight points of the game, the Mustangs reeled off the next 10. Another 10-0 spurt pushed the lead to 11 points and after Culver-Stockton closed to within 35-32 with just over four minutes left in the half, Morningside went on another 10-0 run.
The Mustangs maintained their comfortable margin in the second half by making 24 of 34 shots for 71 percent.
“We had 41 points off the bench and you're going to be able to score a lot of points if you're able to do that,” Sykes said. “All of the guys played well off the bench and we had great balance. If we can stay that way and not be very one-dimensional, that's going to make us tough to guard.”