By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Missouri Southern’s basketball games Thursday night at Washburn followed eerily similar scripts.
The Lions didn’t score in the first 5 minutes, 14 seconds of the women’s game, and their first field goal came just over a minute later. Just over two hours later, the Lions didn’t score for almost 71⁄2 minutes in the men’s game.
Both squads overcame their slow starts. Southern’s women claimed their first lead with eight minutes left in the half, and they led 27-26 at halftime. Southern’s men, after trailing 11-0 and 20-10, pared the deficit to 25-23 at the intermission.
MSSU’s women scored first to start the second half, but the Lions made only one field goal in the first 13 minutes of the half and fell behind 45-33. Washburn, which did not score in the last three minutes, won 53-42.
The Lion men missed nine of 10 shots to start the second half and had two field goals in the first 10-plus minutes while falling behind 43-32. The Lions fought back within two points twice, the last time with 7:10 left, and they made another surge in the final minute before the Ichabods sank two free throws with five seconds left to secure a 62-57 victory.
While disappointed with the losses, both teams hope the improved performances at Washburn will provide momentum entering today’s games at Fort Hays State.
“You do this night in and night out, you’re going to win a lot of games in the MIAA,” MSSU women’s coach Maryann Mitts said. “My concern was would we ever have a performance like this where for 40 minutes we would battle.
“You play the same way on Saturday. That was the message in the locker room. Do what you did (Thursday night) on Saturday, and you’ll get the outcome you want.”
“If we will have that same type of fight in us going to Hays, it’s going to be a battle,” men’s coach Robert Corn said. “We have to build off (Thursday’s) effort. Yes, nobody likes to lose, but yet we had some effort. We competed. And the way we were playing, that had to be the first step. You had to get the effort back. You had to get the competitive nature back, and I thought we had that.”
“Obviously you’re always down after a loss, but it was a positive locker room,” said Marquis Addison, who led Missouri Southern with 14 points. “A lot of the guys were really ready for that win, and Saturday has to be it.”
The Lion men hit 9-of-18 field goals after their slow start in the second half, and they won the rebounding battle (37-28) for the first time in five games.
“I thought in the second half Stephen (Atkinson) got aggressive again, which was good,” Corn said. “I thought Blaine (Miller) played well the first half. If those two guys will come out and give that same type of effort, that could solidify that ‘4’ spot pretty good for us.
“I thought Cam (Cameron Cornelius) played pretty good again. This is such a physical league that you have to have good strength in there, and that’s why Cam and Morgan (Smith) can help this team.”
Missouri Southern’s women exhibited tighter defense at Washburn. The Lady Blues were 4-of-12 from 3-point range after Northeastern State hit 12-of-25 treys in a 69-45 win at MSSU five days earlier.
“We were able to get to the ball a lot quicker,” Mitts said. “I thought Nicole Hartzog, Jolee Sharp, Tee Singleton, all of them as you watched their guards catch the ball, they were right there as they caught it. They didn’t give them a lot of breathing room.”
While the defense was better, the offense was slowed by 25 turnovers and 33 percent shooting.
“We got any shot we wanted offensively again. That’s all I can ask for as a coach. … We did not execute some plays in some critical situations, but we still got plenty of shots. … All we need to do now is tighten up the mental mistakes, the non-blockouts on the missed free throws, hitting our free throws, making the layups.”