Joplin, Mo. - Behind 15 points from senior forward Erin Rice and two clutch free throws from Samantha Soyez, the Missouri Southern Lions women's basketball team won a nail-bitter tonight over Central Oklahoma defeating the Bronchos 68-66 on Senior Night. With the win, the Lions clinch a spot in the 12-team MIAA conference tournament scheduled to begin next Tuesday hosted at campus sites.
With three other Lions in double figures on the evening, Southern would use strong second-half shooting and convert key free throws down the stretch to notch their sixth conference win of the year to even their overall record at 12-12. Dominique Mosley would add 12 points while Sharese Jones would chip in 11 for the Lions.
The Lions would jump out to a 12-11 lead through the first four minutes of play, but Central Oklahoma would respond with a 13-5 run to take a seven-point lead at 24-17 with eight and half minutes to play in the first half. Mosley would hit a jumper from the left block to stop the run, but the Bronchos would again find themselves with a seven-point lead before back-to-back fast break layups from Tee Singleton and Nicole Hartzog and a layup from Rice brought the Lions back to within one (30-29). The Bronchos would tally the final five points of the half, including a buzzer-beating three-pointer, to take a six-point lead into the halftime break.
With the Lions coming out of the locker room on a 8-0 run to start the second half to find themselves up a pair, the final twenty minutes of the game would be a back and forth affair as the teams would trade the lead eleven times with seven ties in the second half as neither team would lead by more than three until the Lions would take a four-point lead on a layup from Rice with 5:18 to play.
Southern would extend their lead to six on a pair of free throws from Jones, keeping it at that margin until the Bronchos would score six straight points on three free-throws and a three-pointer to tie the game at 66 with 52 seconds to play. Soyez would knock down a pair of free throws with 22 seconds remaining to give the Lions a two-point lead. Putting the Bronchos at the free throw line with two seconds remaining, neither shot would find the bottom of the basket as the Lions held on for the two point win.
The Lions would shoot an even 50% from the field on the night going 26-52, including shooting 13-20 in the second half. Outrebounding the Bronchos 38-30, the Lions would outscore UCO 46-22 in the paint. The Lions would net 16 assists on their 26 field goals on the evening, getting a career-high nine from Soyez.
The Lions return to action Wednesday evening when they travel to Pittsburg, Kan. to take on the Pittsburg State Gorillas in a Sonic Trophy Series matchup.