By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
After leading the entire second half, Missouri Southern saw a six-point lead become a two-point deficit with just under three minutes remaining Thursday night.
But the Lions maintained their composure and scored on five straight possessions to earn a 78-74 victory at Lindenwood — MSSU’s first true road win this season.
Two Erin Rice jumpers in the lane sandwiched around a Lindenwood turnover put the Lions ahead to stay with 2:01 left.
On the defensive end, guard Tee Singleton left her man and made a steal, drove the length of the court and was fouled on the shot. She made one free throw for a three-point lead.
Lindenwood scored to pull within one point, but center Dominique Mosley found Rice underneath for a layin to push the lead back to three.
Singleton made 1-of-2 free throws on the Lions’ next possession for a four-point edge, and two free throws by Sharese Jones and one by Shatara Stone in the last 12 seconds secured the victory.
“We need to play a little cleaner game,” Lions coach Maryann Mitts said. “Every time we got up by eight, we gave up a three-point play, or we fouled and they got two free throws. We never could get over the hump, but I’m proud of our ball club. When (Lindenwood) made its run and took the lead (69-67 with 2:51 left), we didn’t get rattled. We came back and were able to put a little run on ourselves.
“Every win in the MIAA is a great win, and they are even better on the road.”
The Lions, riding a three-game winning streak, go for another road win this afternoon when they play at Lincoln.
The Lions (9-3, 3-1 MIAA) already have one more victory than all of last season, and they are tied for fourth place in the league with Central Missouri at 3-1.
Lincoln stands 7-6 overall and 2-3 in the league after Thursday night’s 68-59 home loss to Pittsburg State.
Guards Arriana Walker and Freddie Sims lead Lincoln at 14.0 and 13.5 points, respectively. Guard Jackeya Mitchell had 13 points to pace Lincoln against PSU.
The Blue Tigers rely more on their perimeter game this season after the graduation of standout center Vivian Essuon, who had 34 points and 14 rebounds against MSSU one year ago at Lincoln.
“They are a very athletic basketball team,” Mitts said. “We’re going to have to do a much better job rebounding the basketball and keeping the ball out of the post. We just have to get better, and we have a short time to do that.”
Rice netted a season-high 21 points at Lindenwood as all five starters reached double figures. Shonte Clay had 12 points and seven rebounds, and Singleton, Stone and Jones each had 10.
The Lions shot 53 percent and Lindenwood was at 51 percent, but MSSU did a better job defending Lindenwood’s cuts to the basket in the second half.
“We jumped to the ball better,” Mitts said. “We knew they were a team that had continual movement. They do a great job of cutting hard, looking to score.
“Once we jumped to the ball and kept people out in front of us, then they had to rely more on the dribble-drive, and they had to rely on their outside shooting.”