Scott, Taggart sparking MSSU as season reaches final month

·3 min read

Jan. 29—The Missouri Southern men's basketball team has battled adversity throughout this season with the early season injury to RJ Smith and a myriad of games postponed due to COVID-19 issues.

But despite all that coupled with the challenge of replacing all-time great Cam Martin, the Lions (10-7, 7-4 MIAA) sit sixth in the league standings entering Saturday's action against Northeastern State.

One of the main reasons why is thanks to the play of veteran guard Stan Scott.

The 6-foot-4 senior has put up Dennis Rodman-esque numbers to help MSSU overcome a three-game losing skid and power the Lions to convincing wins over Nebraska Kearney and Rogers State.

In those two games, Scott has tallied a combined 32 rebounds, including a career-high 17 boards against UNK and 15 versus RSU. He scored 25 points in MSSU's 87-75 win over the Lopers, while tossing in 18 points to lead the Lions past the Hillcats 84-63 on Wednesday night at home.

"We know we are going to get scoring from him," MSSU head coach Jeff Boschee said. "We don't have the most size. In years past, we have always had size and we have been able to out-rebound opponents with our size. Now, we are a little bit smaller. But we are pretty athletic. That's what we need from Stan every single night."

Scott said Smith's injury was an eye-opener for not only him, but for his teammates.

"When RJ went down, a lot of players needed to step up and be that next man up," Scott said. "We have a lot of trust in our bench. Everybody is just coming in and making plays. We can all go. It's just figuring out the right times to be aggressive, the right times to score. We are all coming along and everything is starting to click for us right now."

MSSU has received steady production from players like Winston Dessesow and Christian Bundy all season long, but over the last few weeks, 6-5 guard Avery Taggart has blossomed as a viable scoring option for the Lions.

He's scored 10 or more points in his last five contests and capped his recent stretch of play with a career-high 19 points RSU. Taggart shot 7 of 10 from the field, while making 3 of 4 from beyond the arc and 2 of 4 from the foul line.

"It just wasn't his time last year, but like I said, it's been the next man up for us," Scott said of Taggart. "He has been doing great. He has always been a great scorer. Now, he's getting better moving the ball, knowing the game, just getting a better feel for it."

"You can see the confidence just growing in him," Boschee added. "I knew he was going to be good. It's just when. From going to Southern Illinois that first year and playing football to now playing basketball, he came back last year, just kind of getting back into the swing of things and trying to figure out basketball again. It takes a little bit. I think inserting him into the starting lineup has given us a lot more toughness. If he keeps working, he's got a heck of a future at Missouri Southern."

In a season full of twists and turns thus far, MSSU may soon have another challenge heading its way.

Smith, who has not played in over two months due to a broken ankle, is close to returning to action. Boschee said Smith could have played limited minutes on Wednesday, but he opted to sit him out with the score out of hand and to allow the ankle to heal even more.

"It will kind of be the same situation against Northeastern," Boschee said. "The whole year has just been trying to figure it out. RJ is getting closer to being healthy. I feel comfortable with where we are at right now with Avery in the starting lineup. Once RJ comes back, we'll try to figure it out again."