Joplin, Mo. - Fresh off a five-point win at rival Pittsburg State Wednesday, the Missouri Southern women's basketball team wraps up the regular season at Central Oklahoma Saturday in Edmond, Okla. at 1:30 p.m. in Hamilton Field House. Looking for their third win this week, a win over UCO would secure the eighth seed in the upcoming MIAA tournament for the Lions and a first-round home game Tuesday at Legett & Platt Athletic Center.
The Lions last time out (13-12, 7-10 MIAA): Getting a key jumper from Erin Rice with a minute left and converting clutch free throws down the stretch, the Missouri Southern Lions women's basketball team defeated Pittsburg State 62-57 Wednesday at John Lance Arena in the Sonic Trophy Series matchup.
With the Lions up 25-23 at halftime, the Gorillas would take a five-point lead through the first three minutes of the second half thanks to a 9-2 run. The Lions would respond with a 15-6 over the next eight minutes to take a four-point lead (42-38) thanks to a three-pointer from Sharp and a combined nine points from Shonte Clay and Dominique Mosley. With nine minutes to play, the Lions would continue to lead before Pitt State's Lizzy Jeronimus would hit one of two free throws to cut the Lions lead to one (53-52).
Coming out of a timeout with 1:10 remaining, the Lions would get the ball to Rice in the middle of the lane, where she would convert a jumper to give the Lions a three-point lead. Taking a six-point lead thanks to key free throws from Tee Singleton and Nicole Hartzog, the Gorillas would hit a three-pointer with 0:14 seconds remaining to close the gap to three (60-57), but Sharp would hit a final pair to seal the Lions first victory over the Gorillas in the last six meetings.
The Bronchos last time out (9-16, 2-15 MIAA): Northeastern State ended the game with a 9-2 run to hand Central Oklahoma a tough 64-58 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association setback Wednesday night in Tahlequah, Okla.
The Bronchos grabbed a 56-55 lead with 4:00 remaining on a jumper by Alyssa Fuxa, but UCO missed its next five shots and committed two turnovers as the RiverHawks scored nine unanswered points to take control. Central didn't score again until right before the final buzzer and by then it was too late.
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 188-144 (.566) record in 12 years with the Lions. She holds a 271-200 (.575) 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.
Guy Hardaker is in his seventh year as Central Oklahoma's head women's basketball coach turning the Bronchos into a perennial NCAA Division II national tournament contender. A member of the UCO Athletic Hall of Fame, Hardaker took over the helm in 2006 after a highly-successful stint as boys high school basketball coach and is 135-71 in seven years with the Bronchos. He's led UCO to its first four Division II national tournament appearances and the Bronchos won 20-plus games a school-record four consecutive seasons. Guy guided Central to a top-two finish in the Lone Star Conference North Division the last five years (two firsts, three seconds) in the league.
The Series between the two schools: MSSU leads the overall series with UCO 13-6 with their last meeting coming just five days ago (Monday) in Joplin with the Lions winning 68-66. Erin Rice led the Lions in scoring with 15 points and nine rebounds on Senior Night. Dominique Mosley had 12 points while Shonte Clay chipped in ten points and seven rebounds. The Lions are 6-5 at UCO with Southern's last win in Edmond, Okla. coming November 29, 2004 where the Lions took home a 68-55 win.