WARRENSBURG, Mo. -- The Mules built a big first-half lead then withstood a late rally from No. 24 Northwest Missouri State rally to pull out the 63-60 victory on Wednesday. The win was UCM’s sixth in a row against the Bearcats and the second consecutive win against a ranked opponent.

Central Missouri (9-4, 5-3 MIAA) used hot shooting and a stifling defense to race out to a 14-0 lead by the 13:27 mark. The Mules made their first three field goal attempts and forced turnovers on five of Northwest Missouri’s first six possessions.

The Bearcats (12-2, 6-2 MIAA) finally got on the board at the 13:00 mark with a pair of free throws from Dillon Starzl, but back-to-back jumpers from Boo Hunter and Widgett Washington gave UCM an 18-2 lead.

Northwest Missouri made its first field goal of the game at the 9:50 mark, a three by Kyle Haake, to make it 18-5. A three by DJ Slifer pushed the lead back to 16.

The Bearcats started to chip away at the lead using a 15-6 run to cut the lead to seven. The Mules, however, went on an 11-1 run over the next four minutes to build the lead back up to 17 at 38-21. NWMSU hit a pair from the charity stripe to pull within 38-23 at halftime.

The Mules shot 65 percent in the first half, 17-26 including 4-7 from behind the 3-point line. The Bearcats were 8-24 in the half and 2-8 from beyond the arc.

No. 1 Lincoln Memorial 131, Mars Hill 96
No. 6 Tarleton State 76, Angelo State 55
No. 11 Midwestern St. 66, West Texas A&M 60
No. 14 Indiana (Pa.) 68, California (Pa.) 58
No. 22 UDC 83, NYIT 74
Central Missouri 63, No. 24 NW Missouri St. 60

The Bearcats picked up the intensity after halftime and quickly cut into the Central lead. A layup by Lance Beckwith gave UCM a 40-23 lead, but the Bearcats responded with a 15-3 run to cut the lead to five at 43-38.

The teams traded buckets on the next two possessions before a jumper and a free throw by Washington gave the Mules a 50-42 lead.

The Bearcats came right back and the cut the lead to six, but a free throw from Hunter and a jumper from Matt Webb gave UCM some breathing room at 55-46 with 6:57 to play.

Northwest Missouri kept clawing back and tied the game, 58-58 at the 2:14 mark with a 12-3 run.

Hunter responded with a big three to put UCM back in front, 61-58 with 56 seconds to play. After a NWMSU miss the Mules were unable to extend the lead as they struggled from the foul line missing the front end of a one-and-one.

UCM forced a turnover when Hunter took a charge with 25 seconds left. After being fouled on the inbounds, Dominique Long went to the free throw line and calmly made a pair of foul shots with 18 seconds left to give the Mules a 63-58 lead.

A quick layup by DeAngelo Hailey made it 63-60 and the Mules once again went to the charity stripe, but came away empty, missing both attempts. The Bearcats had one last chance to tie the game, but Kyle Haake’s 3-point attempt missed to the right.

Hunter led all scorers with 16 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Washington finished with 12 points and six assists, while Webb had 10 points, six boards and two blocks.

The Mules shot 51 percent from the floor, 26-51 and 5-15 from beyond the arc for 33 percent. UCM struggled at the foul line making just six of 15 attempts for 40 percent.

The Bearcats were led in scoring by Haake with 13. Starzl had 12 points, while Hailey and Jake Reinders each chipped in 10. Northwest Missouri was 23-56 from the field for 41 percent.

The Bearcats were 3-15 from 3-point range for 20 percent and went 11-14 from the charity stripe for 79 percent. The Bearcats out-rebounded the Mules 37-28 and had 14 offensive rebounds. Each team finished with 12 assists, but the Mules had four blocked shots.