(MARYVILLE, Mo.) The Northwest basketball team knew that a knee injury to All-MIAA point guard DeShaun Cooper would slow down the Bearcat offense.
"When DeShaun comes in, he just brings another game that you rarely see," senior guard Bryston Williams said. "When you need a big play, he's that guy."
But Northwest is spinning Cooper's absence into a positive.
The 17th ranked Bearcats are off to a 5-0 start without the St. Louis native.
Cooper led Northwest with 15 points and 4 assists per game last season, so they are finding ways to supplement the offense without him.
"We don't have somebody that's going to just go make a play," head coach Ben McCollum said. "So now we need to share it, we need to get some key o-boards to get easy shots."
McCollum's style of play makes it possible to win without last season's leading scorer.
The Bearcats are winning with defense, not allowing more than 65 points in a game yet this season, and even a couple that they have not got out of the 50s (55-38 over Rockhurst and 59-52 over Upper Iowa).
"His philosophy is all defense, and that's what we pride ourselves everyday in practice and every game on," Williams said. "We just want to come in and shut teams down and try to do that."
"We have to guard or we don't have a chance in games, because we're not going to just go make plays and score a bunch of points," McCollum said. "If you can get stops consistently, then it doesn't put pressure on people to make plays offensively, so then we're able to move the basketball offensively, be patient, get the shots that we want."
As Northwest continues to work without Cooper in the lineup, they are hoping any rough patches the go through now will make them better once the point guard returns.
"If we can become a team now, and build now while he's out and use this as an advantage to come together offensively and be a better offensive minded team, when he comes back it'll be that much easier to make them offensive plays," Williams said.
"I think this will be key as far as our leadership goes, can we continue to grow while we're winning basketball games," McCollum said. "Are we mature enough? Do we have the leadership it takes to do that? And that'll be the question that'll be answered here shortly."
Northwest is back in action Saturday against York College.