Feb. 10—Darius Dawson had himself a week.
The 6-foot-6, 220-pound forward out of Sumter, South Carolina, followed up his 27-point performance on Thursday night against Lincoln with 22 more in Saturday's 71-62 win over Central Missouri at home.
Dawson drilled a 3-pointer in the early stages of the game to put MSSU up 7-5 and it never trailed again in the game. Dawson hit another triple to make it 10-5 and at that point he was responsible for all of the offense.
"We made a point to get him touches and get him shots because he's so efficient and he's such a good player," MSSU head coach Sam McMahon said. "He's a junior college kid and this is his first year so it takes time to adapt to the system and style of play. ... The sky is his ceiling because he has unlimited potential."
McMahon said the versatility of Dawson is what makes him special on the basketball floor. He can drive, post up, shoot and pass the ball.
He's been a major boost for MSSU (11-12, 9-8 MIAA) in these back-to-back victories.
"We're playing really good basketball and I think we're really improving," McMahon said. "We've come out above .500 for the first time with a 9-8 record in league. We've had our tough times and we've learned from it and grown from it and I like where we're at."
Southern got out to the 10-5 lead and went on a long run similar to Thursday night. The advantage was quickly 12 points as Winston Dessesow came off the bench and delivered a blow to the Mules with his first 3-pointer of the game to make it 19-7 with just over eight minutes gone by.
UCM stayed in it and cut the deficit to 5 on multiple occasions in the first half. At one point it was 29-24 with 1:38 left in the half. But then Dawson cashed in on 4 quick points. One basket came on a smooth turnaround shot that was nothing but net to make it 33-24.
Central Missouri closed the half with a layup from Tim Jordan Jr. to make it 33-26 at the break.
Dawson started the second half scoring, then Vinson Sigmon Jr. followed him and then it was Martin Macenis' turn and all of a sudden the lead is 39-26. The Lions kept that double-digit advantage for most of the second half.
It was a 12-point lead at the end of the game before the Mules hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it 71-62.
MSSU has held its opponents below 70 points in four of its last five games and McMahon likes what he's getting from his defense during that stretch.
"Our defensive effort is tremendous and we're moving really well. It takes five guys to guard a really good team," McMahon said. "We're getting into that grove. Offensively, too. It takes all five guys. It isn't a one-man show. I think we're getting into that rhythm at the right time."
Dawson collected seven rebounds to go along with his 22 points. Macenis added 18. Sigmon Jr. tallied 14 and also had seven rebounds and all three guys shot 50% or better overall. Dawson also blocked four shots.
UCM also had a trio of players in double figures. Keith Kiner III led the way with 17, Jalen Knott added 15 and Corey Skillman Jr. tallied 11.
Southern won the assist battle 12-7 and had 11 turnovers to Central's 13.
MSSU is back in action at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 17, as Pittsburg State (15-8, 11-6 MIAA) comes to town. The Lions jumped from ninth to tie for sixth in the MIAA standings with this win over UCM as Lincoln (13-9, 8-8 MIAA) lost at PSU.
The Lions have a chance to climb more with five games left in the season. They are currently tied in the standings with Missouri Western and Central Oklahoma at 9-8.
"Every game is a big opportunity for us and we don't take that for granted," McMahon said. "We thankful for what the good Lord has blessed us with. Whether it's against Pitt State or Lincoln we take it serious and we're going to go at those guys. We know it'll be a great challenge for us."
The Lions have won back-to-back games on three occasions now this season, but they've not turned that into a three-game streak yet. They will have a chance for that on Saturday.