The Builders open up conference play at home against the University of Saint Mary Spires on Thursday. The Spires come into the game second in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference standings with a 5-2 record. They lead the conference in scoring defense, allowing 68.43 points per game. Saint Mary has also proven to be the most dominate team in rebounding, leading the KCAC with 42.43 rebounds per game. “I think we just have to go out there and play the game as hard as we can,” said Jared Irvin, sophomore guard.

 “Conference is always tough, and we can’t fall behind at home.” If that wasn’t enough, the Spires also have the conference’s leading scorer, Eric Avant, sophomore guard, who averages 22.43 points per game. After winning five straight games, though, the Spires have dropped their last three including two exhibition matches. “How well we rebound the basketball and that we can score and defend the perimeter will all be major factors against Saint Mary,” said Matt O’ Brien, head basketball coach.

The Builders come into conference play with a 4-4 record. Offensively, they have found success as they are currently third in the KCAC in scoring offense, averaging 73.14 points per game. Their leading scorer, Marcus Batiste, senior forward, averages 15.57 points per game and 5.86 rebounds per game. The Builders finished off their non-conference schedule at Southwestern Christian University Nov. 30 in Bethany, Okla. The men found themselves in a tight game early on. The Eagles went in the locker rooms with a 32-30 lead over the Builders at halftime. The game remained close in the second half, but the Builders outscored Southwestern Christian 42-36 to come away with a 72-68 victory. Batiste finished the game with 14 points and seven rebounds for the Builders, while Justin Diggles followed with 11 points and 4 steals. The men won the turnover battle, forcing 15 turnovers while committing only eight. They also had a 43.5 percent field goal percentage, and out-rebounded the Eagles 32-30.

The Builders competed in the Missouri Southern Classic exhibition tournament against Missouri Southern State on Saturday. The night before the Builders had suffered a tough 78-67 loss to Pittsburg State, and this game would prove to be much more challenging.

The Builders kept it close in the early minutes of the game. The Lions, though, had other plans as they quickly changed a one-point lead into a 12-point advantage with less than five minutes coming off the clock. Missouri Southern continued to add to their lead as they went into the locker rooms at halftime up 47-30. “Against Missouri Southern in the first half we did a lot of things that will help us in the long run,” said Justin Diggles, senior guard. “Playing against that kind of talent helped us get better before conference.”

The Builders fought hard in the second half as they came back to narrow the deficit to 53-46 with 15:46 left to play. That was as close as they would get as Missouri Southern went on a 22-3 run to put them back in the lead for good. The final score read 100-67 Lions.

The Builders struggled with turnovers throughout the game as they committed 23 turnovers leading to 37 Missouri Southern points. They also had trouble from the free throw line as they hit just 6-15 foul shots. The Builders shot 43.10 percent from the field, and went 11-29 from beyond the arch. “On the court we got better at rebounding the ball and offense. Off the court we bonded as a team,” said O’ Brien. “We need to be more aggressive on the backboard as well as getting better with our offensive execution.”

Stuart Ballard, junior forward, led the Builders in scoring with 13 points, hitting 5 of 6 from the field. Travis Thurau, junior forward, finished the game with seven rebounds for the Builders.

Clint Dick is a freshman majoring in convergent journalism. You may e-mail him at clinton.dick@sckans.edu.