By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Just two short weeks ago, basketball spirits were running high at Missouri Southern.
Coming home after a road doubleheader sweep at Lincoln, the Lions had a combined three MIAA losses — one by the women, two by the men — and they were preparing to play three of their next four games at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
The homestand started with a split as the MSSU men defeated Pittsburg State 87-80 after the women dropped a 66-63 decision.
But since then the friendly confines of the LAPAC haven’t been so friendly as Nebraska-Kearney and Northeastern State swept the Lions on the last two Saturdays. In between, the Lions dropped a midweek doubleheader at Emporia State.
The Lions’ last two home appearances were disappointing, to say the least.
Disappointing against Nebraska-Kearney because both Loper teams came to town with only one MIAA victory apiece.
Disappointing against Northeastern State because both RiverHawk teams built double-digit halftime leads, and the Lions made no second-half charges while being held to their fewest points this season — 54 by the men, 45 by the women.
Now the Lion men — who hadn’t lost three straight since 2009 — are on their second three-game skid of the season.
“This is crazy,” junior center Jordan Talbert said. “The fact that it happens when I become a leader, I take that personal. When I was here (the previous two seasons), our leaders didn’t let that happen. Now it’s supposed to be my role to not let this happen.
“It’s time to get our minds back, get our bodies back and get back to work. We have to get focused on getting back to the basics, back to having fun out there. I don’t think we’re having fun right now. Obviously winning is fun and losing is not fun. We have to get back to the basics.”
“This team, if we get off to a quick start and make some baskets early, we’re pretty good,” men’s coach Robert Corn said. “If we don’t make baskets early, then we kind of play a little bit more in a panic mode rather than fighting through things.
“It was obvious (Saturday) when we had a hard time scoring, we didn’t do a very good job in fighting through it and played more in a panic where we didn’t take the shots we should have been taking.”
Missouri Southern’s women, after winning their first four league games in January, have lost four straight.
“We talked to them about we could not stop (on defense) before (NSU) did because of all their movement,” women’s coach Maryann Mitts said. “What you saw in the second half was when we would sub, they would get a 3 off. That is just us stopping first, and any time you stop first when you’re on defense, you’re going to get scored on or they are going to get an offensive rebound and get a putback.”
The task certainly doesn’t get any easier for the Lions as they face a road trip this week to Washburn on Thursday night and Fort Hays State on Saturday afternoon.
“We have to forget about (Saturday’s game), come into practice this week and do what we need to in order to get the win on the road,” sophomore guard Nicole Hartzog said.
“We’ll get them ready for Washburn and Hays,” Mitts said. “They are going to have to make a decision on whether or not we’re going to follow a game plan for an entire 40 minutes.”
JIM HENRY is executive sports editor of The Joplin Globe.