By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
Missouri Southern coach Maryann Mitts went into Thursday night’s game against Southwest Baptist knowing her team needed to shoot the ball better.
The Lions responded by hitting 62 percent of their shots from the field.
Throw in some solid ball-pressure defense and the Lions had the perfect equation to end their recent frustrations.
Missouri Southern snapped a six-game skid with a 69-63 win over the Bearcats at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
“This game was a real big one for us,” said Tee Singleton, who scored 13 points in the win. “We came in Monday and knew we had to have some good practices leading into tonight. We knew we’re better than what we’ve been playing so snap that streak is big.”
Singleton guided an efficient Southern offense that hit 28 of its 45 shots.
The Lions shot nearly 70 percent over the first 10 minutes — 69.2 percent to be exact — and calmed any losing-streak jitters they may have had.
“Ball movement was the key offensively,” Mitts said. “It was nice to hit shots in those first few possessions. You could just see that our kids could relax and start to believe in our offensive execution. We didn’t struggle to score and we connected nicely.”
The Lions (11-9, 5-7 MIAA) built a 10-point first-half lead before the Bearcats (9-11, 4-8) responded with a 12-2 run to knot the game at 20.
But Missouri Southern forced three straight turnovers that led to seven straight points — a Singleton layup, a Jolee Sharp trey off a long pass from Erin Rice and a Nicole Hartzog steal and layup — to make it 27-20 with 6:38 left in the half.
SBU didn’t get within one possession the rest of the way and the Lions led by double digits for much of the second half.
“That run was critical,” Mitts said. “When you’re coming off a six-game losing streak, you need anything positive to continue to happen and for the first time in a long time we had an extended run that allowed us to have some cushion.”
Sharese Jones hit all five of her shots from the floor and led the Lions with 16 points. She was 2-for-2 from 3-point range and 4-for-6 from the foul line.
Rice and Dominique Mosley added nine points each to the balanced attack and Shonte Clay scored eight.
“It was just constant ball movement,” Jones said. “With the ball movement we got good looks to our posts and our guards on the outside and rotated the ball.”
The Lions held SBU to just 33 percent shooting from the field and forced the Bearcats into 17 turnovers, which led to 21 MSSU points.
“Our ball pressure was excellent,” Mitts said. “Really the only thing we got hurt on in the first half was that high, on-the-ball screen where they were either getting the pull-up jumper or the roll to the basket. I thought our ball pressure was good. We got some shot-clock violations in that first half. That’s where we get a lot of our energy and a lot of our production.”
The Bearcats were led by Chasity Prince’s game-high 19 points while Brittney Dukes added 18. Jacqui Zelenka scored 13 points.