Joplin, Mo. - Using a 26-6 second half run to overcome a 18-point deficit, the Missouri Southern Lions women's basketball team was unable to complete a second half comeback falling just short tonight to the Northwest Missouri Bearcats 77-72 in the first round of the MIAA Tournament.
Led in scoring with 26 points on 11-of-21 shooting from three-time All-MIAA perfomer Erin Rice, Dominique Mosley added 11 points while Tee Singleton and Sharese Jones chipped in eight points apiece for the Lions (14-13). The Bearcats (15-12) were led by 21 points from Ashleigh Nelson along with 14 points from Annie Mathews.
With the Lions trailing 39-29 at the halftime break, the Bearcats would come out of the locker room on a 12-4 run to take their largest lead of the game at 18 (51-33) through the first 4:40 of the second half. The Lions would respond finding their offensive rhythm over the next 8:47 ripping off a 26-6 run to take their first and only lead of the game at 59-57.
The Lions offensive explosion would include ten points from Rice, five from Jones, four from Mosley and three-pointers from Singleton and Jolee Sharp. The Bearcats would stop the Lions' run with a three-pointer and a jumper to take a three-point lead but Sharp would nail a three-pointer from the top of the arc to knot the game at 62 with 4:12 to play.
With the Bearcats hitting six free throws to take a eight point lead at 71-63 with 1:06 to play, Mosley hit a pair of free throws to draw the Lions within six with 0:58 to play, but the Bearcats would answer right back with a layup ten seconds later to re-gain an eight point advantage. With each team trading a pair of free throws, Rice would hit a three-pointer to pull the Lions within five (75-70) with 0:26 to play. Coming out of a timeout, the Lions would force a Bearcat turnover, but they were unable to capitalize as they committed one of a season-low nine turnovers tp give the ball back to Northwest.
Nicole Hartzog would hit a layup with nine seconds remaining, but that would be as close as they would come as the Lions fell by a final of 77-72. The Lions would shoot 23-56 (.411) from the field on the night, but the Bearcats would be just a little better shooting 25-49 (.510) hitting 7-17 from three-point range while going 20-28 from the free throw line. The Lions were unable to find their distance from long range only connecting on 4-16 from beyond the arc.
Despite outscoring the Bearcats 16-9 by forcing 19 Bearcat turnovers, Northwest would take advatage of points in the paint outscoring the Lions 34-24. With her 26 points tonight, Rice finishes her career with 1,220 points in 108 career games at Southern. That mark places her ninth all-time in Southern history in scoring.
Northwest Missouri advances to the MIAA Tournament Quarterfinals to play top-seeded Washburn Friday at noon at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City.