January 18, 2013

Women's basketball plays host to MIAA newcomer Nebraska-Kearney on Saturday afternoon

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Joplin, Mo. - Coming off of their first home loss of the year on Wednesday night to Pittsburg State, the Missouri Southern women's basketball team returns to action Saturday afternoon when they host MIAA newcomer Nebraska-Kearney at 1 p.m. at Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

The Lions last time out (10-4, 4-2 MIAA): Despite shooting 50% from the field in the second half, the Missouri Southern women's basketball team was unable to overcome a slow first half start falling to the 24th ranked Pittsburg State Gorillas 66-63 at home tonight at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

With the Lions scoring the last seven points of the first half to go into the locker room at the break only down seven, the Lions continued their hot shooting in the second half starting the second half on a 13-6 run to tie the game at 37 before the Gorillas responded with a 13-6 run of their own to re-take a seven-point lead at 50-43 with 7:38 remaining in the game. The Lions would end the run with a jumper from Jolee Sharp, but the Gorillas would continue their hot shooting from beyond the arc to take an eight-point lead, before a Sharese Jones three-pointer cut Pittsburg's lead to five.

With Jeronimus scoring six straight points for the Gorillas, the Lions would find themselves down by nine (61-52) with 3:09 to play. Trying to battle back, a layup from Stone and a pair of free throws from Clay cut Pitt State's lead to seven, before a Singleton steal and three-pointer from Rice cut the lead to four. A free throw from Roberts would push the Gorilla's lead back to five, but a Singleton jumper would cut the lead back to three before a jumper from the Gorilla's Brigit Hester would all but seal the win for Pittsburg State. Sharese Jones would hit a pair of free throws with a second remaining, but the Lions comeback would fall short.

The Lopers last time out (4-10, 1-6 MIAA): Forwards Nicole Caddell and Keuna Flax combined for 43 points and 18 rebounds as 11th-ranked Central Missouri survived Nebraska-Kearney, 68-63, Wednesday night at the Health & Sports Center. Facing a deeper and more athletic squad, UNK worked as hard as ever to keep things close. The Lopers hung around all night thanks to 25 offensive rebounds, which led to 24 second chance points.

 Also scoring 22 points off of 20 UCM turnovers, Kearney rallied from a 13 point second half deficit to make it a 67-63 contest after a put back bucket by Lincoln sophomore Queen Ohamara with 46 seconds to play. After UCM missed two free throws, UNK had a chance to get within two but a flurry of action with 28 seconds left included a Loper turnover and a missed Ohamara jumper. UCM managed to pull down the rebound and then hit one of two free throws to finish the scoring.

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 185-136 (.576) record in 12 years with the Lions. She holds a 268-192 (.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.

Kevin Chaney is in his third season as head coach of Nebraska-Kearney. Entering this afternoon's game with a 25-43 record at Kearney, Chaney has worked at two NCAA Division I schools (Nevada & Southern Illinois Edwardsville), two NCAA Division II schools (Minnesota-Duluth & Lincoln, Mo.) and one junior college (Solano C.C., Calif.).  In 2011-12, UNK's last season in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC), the Lopers went 8-19 and tied for 11th in the standings. Seniors Debi Johnson and Vanessa Leeper Jones both were named All-RMAC for a second straight year with Leeper Jones being tabbed an Academic All-American. Both players also finished with over 1,000 points in their Kearney careers.  

The Series between the two schools: The Lions lead the overall series with the Lopers 15-12. The two schools met last year in Kearney, Nebraska with the Lions defeating Kearney 76-66. Senior forward Erin Rice recorded a double-double in that contest finishing the evening with 18 points and 11 rebounds. The Lions are 8-5 against the Lopers at home, while splitting the series on the road 7-7.