The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 26, 2013

RiverHawks whip Lions with defense

By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor

— Northeastern State added another notch in its defensive belt Saturday afternoon.

The RiverHawks limited Missouri Southern to 31 percent shooting and dominated the final 28 minutes for a 69-45 victory over the Lions in MIAA women’s action at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

Senior guards Taylor Lewis and Tosha Tyler scored 14 points apiece as the RiverHawks (13-5, 8-2 MIAA) remained tied for second place in the league standings.

After a cold shooting start, NSU found the range and finished at 56 percent (27-of -48) from the floor and 48 percent (12-of-25) from beyond the arc. The RiverHawks missed seven of eight 3-point shots in the first 10 minutes but made 11 of their last 17, including 7-of-9 in the second half.

“Our only objective defensively was to give no 3s,” Lions coach Maryann Mitts said. “We talked about that for 72 hours, no 3s, no attempts at the 3-point line. As coaches we knew that 50 percent of their shots were from the 3. We knew that’s where the game would be decided, and when they score 36 points and we lose by 24, had we just committed to that one thing, you win the ball game. But we’re not committing to the game plan.”

The Lions (10-7, 4-5), meanwhile, made 17-of-55 shots overall, 7-of-25 from long range. Guard Nicole Hartzog tallied 14 points – 12 in the second half – but no other Lion had more than seven points.

“I thought Nicole Hartzog played a great basketball game again,” Mitts said. “I thought Tee Singleton gave us good effort (four points, team-high five rebounds, four assists), but after that I couldn’t really find anybody who could compete in the MIAA today.

“I was not pleased with our competitiveness. We do not have but maybe two people out there battling to win ball games. Performances like that are embarrassing.”

Missouri Southern posted its lowest scoring total of the season, seven points fewer than it had three days earlier at Emporia State. The Lions became the fifth MIAA team to score a season low against the RiverHawks, joining Washburn (43), Fort Hays State (44), Emporia State (51) and Pittsburg State (50).

“Our kids have the desire,” NSU coach Randy Gipson said. “We have a real competitive group of kids who understand that playing good defense is a team proposition. They really like to help each other on defense. Sometimes people think they are about a good look, and we have somebody else jump out on a shooter.

“Teamwork, effort, concentration, a lot of defense is a mentality. We have a group of kids who really have a good mentality and willingness to expend the energy and help each other out.”

“We weren’t hitting the shots we are capable of hitting,” said Hartzog, who was 5-of-11 from the floor and 3-of-7 from long range. “We had a lot of open looks on the 3-point line, but things weren’t falling.”

Both teams got off to a slow start offensively, and the game was tied at 11-11 after Singleton’s baseline jumper with 8:26 left in the first half.

But the RiverHawks outscored the Lions 21-5 in the last eight minutes of the half to lead 32-16 at the break. NSU hit eight of 11 shots during its spree while the Lions were 1-of-12 and had three turnovers. The Lions’ only points came on Samantha Soyez’s 3-pointer at 4:55 and Johnna tenBerge’s two free throws at 2:30.

“I felt at the beginning of the game we came out with more intensity,” Hartzog said. “But near the end is when we just gave up or something. That’s when we were giving them open looks that shouldn’t have been there.”

“Their tempo only allows a certain amount of possessions, and it’s what you do with those possessions that determines the ball game,” Mitts said. “Obviously we were going inside, and when we did that and we played strong with the ball, we were successful.

“We also had plenty of opportunities to hit the 3. We have really been on our shooters to get in the gym and shoot extra, knowing that the 3 was going to be open. We had some who wouldn’t even pull the trigger. I thought Johnna (tenBerge) came in and did what I asked her to do, and that was pull the trigger. Obviously she didn’t hit enough (1-of-7) for us to be successful.”

With 4:37 left in the first half, Lions junior guard Shatara Stone attempted to make a defensive move and fell to the floor, grabbing her right knee. Early diagnosis is a hyperextension, Mitts said.