Joplin, Mo. -- The Missouri Southern women's basketball team will hit the road for their first true road game of the year this weekend as the Lions open up MIAA conference play traveling to Kirksville to take on the Truman State Bulldogs on Saturday at 1 pm from Pershing Arena.
The Coaches: Maryann Mitts is the winningest coach in Missouri Southern history. Under Mitts' guidance, the Lions have averaged 17 wins during her 11 years at the helm and have finished in the upper echelon of the highly competitive Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association seven of those 11 years. In 16 years as a collegiate head coach, Mitts has amassed an impressive 13 winning seasons. Notable, the Lions have also narrowly missed the NCAA post-season tournament in six of those 11 years. Overall, Mitts has compiled a 181-133 (.576) record in 12 years with the Lions. She holds a 264-189 (.583) mark in 17 years as a collegiate head coach. Mitts currently ranks amongst the Top 50 of all Division II active coaches in all-time victories.
Michael Smith has helped the Bulldogs increase their win total in each of his four seasons cumulating last year with a 17-10 record, the most wins since the 1999-2000 season. They also posted their highest conference winning percentage (.550) in over a dozen years while qualifying for their second straight MIAA postseason tournament. The 2011-12 Bulldogs started the campaign by winning eight of their first nine games and received votes in the WBCA/USA Today Division II Top 25 poll. It was the first time in six years Truman has garnered mentions in the poll. Truman set a school record for points allowed per game at 60.4 which was 2.2 points lower than the record set in the 1981-82 season and the lowest number of turnovers per game (13.3) in team history.
The Lions last time out (6-1, 0-0 MIAA): Southern picked up its sixth consecutive win last Saturday at home over the Drury University Lady Panthers 62-59. Led by 15 points from junior guard Jolee Sharp, 13 points from junior guard Shatara Stone and 10 points from senior forward Erin Rice, the Lions (6-1) overcame a poor first half shooting from the field to shoot 15-for-31 (.484) in the second half. Trailing by eight at halftime and down by as many as 14 in the second half, the Lions used a 13-0 run over four and half minutes of the second half to close the gap to within one. Climbing back into the game and with the score locked at 59 apiece, senior forward Erin Rice hit the game-winning jumper with 1:22 remaining to clinch the victory for the Lions. Using a 36-20 points in the paint advantage, the Lions shot 23-of-57 (.404) from the field on the day and despite a season-high 24 turnovers, forced 21 Lady Panther turnovers that they converted into 17 points.
The Bulldogs last time out (5-1, 0-1 MIAA): Truman comes into this afternoon's game coming off their first defeat of the season Wednesday night in their MIAA conference opener losing at Missouri Western 71-64. Truman (5-1, 0-1 MIAA) held a 23-22 lead at the 7:41 mark of the first half, which was the seventh lead change of the game, but Brittany Griswold jump started a 11-0 spurt for the Griffons with her first basket of the night. The Bulldogs tried to chip away in the second half but the Griffons (8-1, 1-0 MIAA) would find an answer for each Truman threat. Truman shot 53% from field and 46% from three but took nine less shots than the Griffons and they were just 12-of-20 from the foul line. Foul trouble also plagued the 'Dogs as leading scorer Becka McHenry was tagged with three fouls in the first half limiting her nine minutes and no points during that period. Jennifer Conway led Truman with 14 points with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the first half. Amy Briggs scored 13 and Allie Norton poured in 10 more on three made three-pointers.
The Series between the two schools: Southern leads the overall series with Truman 22-21 with their last victory over the Bulldogs coming on January 22, 2011 at home by a score of 64-40. Truman took both games over the Lions last year defeating Southern at Leggett & Platt Athletic Center by a score of 63-55 on November 30, 2011 and then in Kirksville beating the Lions 72-53 on January 21, 2012. Erin Rice averaged 18 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in the two contests last year, going for 22 points at home on 8-for-13 shooting from the field. Shatara Stone had five points and nine rebounds in the Lions defeat at home as well.