Joplin, Mo. - The Missouri Southern women's basketball team will hit the road for their final nonconference game of the year this weekend as the Lions travel to Searcy, Arkansas to take on the Harding University Lady Bison on Saturday at 2 pm from Rhodes Fieldhouse.
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 181-134 (.575) record in 12 years with the Lions. She holds a 264-190 (.581) 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.
In his eighth season at Harding, Tim Kirby has led the Lady Bison to six straight conference tournament berths, including playing for the Great American Conference Championship in 2011-12. In his seven seasons as head coach, Kirby has compiled a 125-82 (.604) overall record. The Lady Bison have won 34 straight non-conference home games dating back to his first season (2005-06). Last season, the Lady Bison finished 18-11 overall and 9-7 in the GAC. Harding advanced to the championship game of the conference tournament in the GAC's inaugural season. Kirby's team led the conference in scoring defense, along with numerous other statistical categories including field goal percentage defense, rebounding defense, defensive rebounding percentage, offensive rebounding percentage, and blocked shots. Kirby has coached three conference Freshmen of the Year honorees, including Montana Lewis last season.
The Lions Last time out (6-2, 0-1 MIAA): Playing in their first road game of the year and MIAA conference opener last Saturday at Truman University, the Lions fell 72-62 to the Bulldogs in Kirksville. The Lions were led by junior center Shonte Clay with 10 points, while four players finished with 9 points apiece off the bench. Senior forward Erin Rice, junior guard Shatara Stone, sophomore guard Nicole Hartzog and junior forward Dominique Mosley all finished the afternoon with 9 points. Mosley and junior guard Jolee Sharp tied for a team-high 6 rebounds. Going into the locker room at halftime with a seven-point deficit, the Lions came out in the second half on fire, tearing off a 18-7 run out of the locker room to go up 42-38 with 13:37 remaining in the game. That run featured scoring from six Lions, including four each from Hartzog and junior guard Samantha Soyez. The Bulldogs responded with a 10-3 run, including a pair of three-pointers, to retake the lead at 48-45. A layup by Mosley closed the lead back to within one, but another 12-3 run from the Bulldogs opened the lead back to 60-50. A pair of layups from Clay and freshman guard Sharese Jones closed the gap within 60-54, but that would be as close as the Lions would get the rest of the afternoon falling by a final of 72-62.
The Lady Bisons last time out (3-4, 1-2 GAC): Harding comes into this afternoon's game after dropping their second Great American conference game of the season last Saturday afternoon at Southeastern Oklahoma State 72-60. Despite Southeastern Oklahoma State shooting 45.8 percent from the field in the first half, Harding stayed close until the Savage Storm hit a 3-pointer with 39 seconds left in the first. HU trailed 34-26 at halftime. SOSU held HU to shooting 38.5 percent in the half. After being down by 10 in the first minute of the second of the second half, Harding cut SOSU's lead to five with 18:05 left. Southeastern Oklahoma State again built on their lead and led by as much as 13 until the final minutes. Harding pulled within six with a 1:02 left on Lauren Crenshaw's 3-pointer. HU missed their next three shots and SOSU hit 4-of-4 free throws for the win. The Savage Storm victory snapped a four-game losing streak. Southeastern Oklahoma State shot 50 percent in the second half (12-of-24). SOSU shot 81.5 percent from the free throw line (22-of-27) led by Bailey Welch who was perfect, making 10-of-10. Welch led the Savage Storm in points with 14.
The series between the two schools: Harding leads the overall series with Southern 1-0. Harding won the only matchup between the two schools last year in Joplin defeating the Lions 68-50 in the Lion's season opener. Erin Rice had a team-high 14 points, going a perfect 8-of-8 from the line on the night playing a game-high 38 minutes. Shatara Stone chipped in five points and two rebounds.