Joplin, Mo. -- The Missouri Southern women's basketball team returns to MIAA conference action after a 19-day layoff for the holidays on Thursday night when they host the Northwest Missouri State Bearcats at 5:30 p.m in the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
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 181-135 (.573) record in 12 years with the Lions. She holds a 264-191 (.580) 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.
Mark Kellogg is in his first season at the helm of the Northwest Missouri State women's basketball team after seven seasons at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo. Kellogg posted a 173-46 overall record in seven seasons at Fort Lewis including a 116-23 mark in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC). He guided the Skyhawks to the last five NCAA Division II tournaments, highlighted by a national runner-up finish in 2009-10 and a Sweet 16 appearance in 2008-09.
The Lions last time out (6-3, 0-1 MIAA): The Lions fell on the road in their last outing at Harding University 72-53 on December 15. Behind a career-high 33 point scoring output from junior guard Kristen Celsor, Harding used Celsor's hot shooting and capitalized on a season-high 25 turnovers from the Lions to take home the victory. The Lions (6-3) were led on the afternoon by senior forward Erin Rice and junior guard Shatara Stone who each finished the afternoon with 10 points. Sharese Jones finished with nine points, while sophomore guard Nicole Hartzog chipped in seven points. Getting off to a slow start, Harding jumped out to a 10-3 lead thanks to six points from Celsor, but the Lions battled back using a 8-7 run over the next four minutes, including six points from Jones to make the score 17-11. Harding responded with a 7-1 run to take its largest lead of the first half at 12 points (24-12), but the Lions responded again with six consecutive points, including four from Hartzog to close the game within six at 24-18. The Lady Bisons answered the Lions run with six consecutive points of their own to close out the first half going into the locker room at halftime up 30-18. Getting out to a 10-4 run to start the half, Harding took a 40-22 lead, but the Lions countered with a 9-2 run, including five points from Rice and four from junior center Shonte Clay to close the gap to within 11 (42-31), but that would be as close as the Lions would get the rest of the afternoon as Harding shot 15-of-26 from the field in the second half to extend the lead to as many as 28 before the Lions finished strong losing by a final score of 72-53.
The Bearcats last time out (8-2, 2-0 MIAA): The Northwest Missouri State women's basketball led from start to finish as they raced past Midland University (Neb.), 78-45 on December 17 in non-conference action from Bearcat Arena. Monique Stevens was outstanding for the Bearcats as the junior transfer scored 13 points and grabbed five rebounds. Stevens scored the first six points for Northwest and recorded her first of a season-high seven assists, to break an 8-8 tie with 16:06 left in the first half. From there Northwest would not look back. The Bearcats slowly pulled away from the Warriors before a 13-2 run gave them a 35-24 lead at halftime. The second half was all green and white as the Bearcats open the period with an 11-1 run to help build a 15 point lead. The Bearcats would shoot 82 percent from the free throw line as the lead grew to as large as 37 before settling at the final 78-45.
The Series between the two schools: The Bearcats lead the overall series with Southern 23-21, but the Lions hold a 12-6 advantage at home. The Lions swept the season series last year defeating the Bearcats at home 83-75 in overtime and in the season finale 61-49 in Maryville. In the win in Maryville, Rice led the Lions with a 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting, while Stone finished with 11 points while grabbing four rebounds.