Message received: Kicked out of locker room and practicing at elementary school, Hawks respond with home victory

Truman State (108)

Jamaurie Coakley, with the ball on the baseline against Truman State, scored 13 points in the second half on Saturday in his final game for Quincy University at Pepsi Arena. | Photo courtesy of Denny Sinnock

QUINCY – Quincy University men’s basketball coach Steve Hawkins didn’t like the way his team responded to a 13-point home loss to William Jewell Thursday night, its third straight defeat and sixth in eight games.

He sent a message the following day by locking the players out of their locker room in Pepsi Arena, prohibiting them from wearing team practice gear and forcing them to practice in the former Adams Elementary School gymnasium.

“I wanted to find out who wants to play for Quincy University, not just at it,” Hawkins said. “It wasn’t the way we lost but the way we responded that I didn’t like to see. It was not what you need to have when things aren’t going well. You have to be united.

“I didn’t plan on the gym having no heat. The players were wearing stocking caps and hoodies. But they responded well to it.”

Quincy University coach Steve Hawkins | Photo courtesy of Denny Sinnock

With all 14 players seeing action, QU opened an early 14-point lead and blunted every Truman State charge en route to an 83-75 victory Saturday afternoon in its home finale to sweep the season series.

The Hawks entered the game as the worst shooting team in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. They had made just 37 percent of their field goal tries during the three-game skid, including just 24.5 percent of their 3-point tries. The 53 points they scored in the dismal showing against William Jewell matched their season low.

Against Truman State, however, QU made 51 percent of its shots from the field and used a 14-0 run in a little over two minutes midway through the first half to break a 10-all tie to gain a lead it never relinquished.

The Bulldogs closed within two points seven times in the second half, but each time the Hawks responded with either a defensive stop, points or both.

Playing their final game in Pepsi Arena, Malik Hardmon scored 17 of his game-high 23 points in the first half to help set the tone, and Jamaurie Coakley scored all 13 of his points in the second half to help QU improve to 14-12, 10-8 in the GLVC.

Coakley, a Massachusetts native playing in front of family for the first time since coming to QU three seasons ago, said Hawkins’ message was received loud and clear.

“He wanted us to play hard and represent Quincy University and the program,” the 6-foot-3 guard said. “It was a cold, little gym with the 3-point line next to the halfcourt line. It opened our eyes up a little bit.”

“He got his message across,” Hardmon added.

A 3-pointer from Connor Davis, who had played only 176 minutes all season, gave QU the lead for good at 13-10. Hardmon followed with a 3-pointer of his own, then scored on a conventional three-point play.

Another 3-pointer by Isaiah Foster and an Orlando Thomas layup off a turnover made it 24-10 with 10:27 left in the first half.

The game appeared to have the makings of a repeat of the first meeting in early January, when the Hawks raced to a 51-28 halftime lead before settling for an 85-74 victory — their finest offensive performance of the season.

But Truman State, which had won nine consecutive games and 17 of the last 19 in the series before the Jan. 5 loss, closed the first half with an 8-0 run to pull within 36-31.

“There was a little concern,” Hardmon said, “but it had to do with what we were doing, not what they were doing.”

A dunk by Paul Zilinskas off a pass from Hardmon gave QU a 44-36 lead with just over 15 minutes remaining. The sharp shooting of Trey Shearer and Xavier Hall enabled Truman State, which made 11 of 28 3-point tries and 16 of 17 free throws, to stay close.

Shearer led four Bulldogs in double figures with 16 points.

With the Hawks clinging to a 64-62 lead, Hardmon hit a jumper from right of the circle with 6:45 to go. Mason Wujek then twice put back in his own miss to push the advantage to 70-64.

Truman State (12-14, 7-11) closed within 77-73 on a 3-pointer by leading scorer Elijah Hazekamp, who was limited to eight points, with 40 seconds remaining. But Zion Richardson took a sideline pass to beat full-court pressure for a layup, and Coakley sank four free throws in the final 21 seconds to seal it.

“This was our last game in Pepsi, and we wanted to leave on a good note with a W,” Coakley said.

“Our goal is to play great for 36 minutes and be perfect for four,” Hawkins said. “We weren’t perfect, but we were pretty dialed in the last four minutes.”

QU closes its regular season with road games Thursday against Southwest Baptist and next Saturday versus Rockhurst. The Hawks are in a three-way tie for fourth place in the GLVC with SBU and Missouri-St. Louis, both of whom lost Saturday.

QU entered the day sixth in the league’s point rating system, and the victory may have secured a berth in the eight-team postseason tournament. One more victory in the regular season will assure the Hawks of a winning record for the first time since the 2016-17 season.

“With Senior Night out of the way, we know we have to be all business from now on,” Hardmon said. “Our mentality is to win these next two games, and we know we can. We’re still eyeing a GLVC championship.”

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