By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
After Missouri Southern’s 90-44 victory against Manhattan Christian on Monday night, Lions head basketball coach Maryann Mitts glanced at the statistics and quickly found what she was looking for.
“One of the things we wanted to do tonight was execute offensively,” Mitts said. “When you have 25 assists, you’re executing well and sharing the basketball.”
The Lions never trailed and ended the first half at Leggett & Platt Athletic Center the same way they started it — with a 3-pointer by Johnna tenBerge. Missouri Southern made 70 percent of its field-goal attempts and led 51-20 at halftime.
Erin Rice made all six of her shots in the first half and finished with a game-high 15 points in 16 minutes of playing time.
“We definitely needed that as a team,” said Rice, a senior forward. “It will get us prepared for this week. We’re not forcing things that aren’t there.”
Missouri Southern (2-1) will play Newman at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at MSSU.
The Lions made 37 of 62 attempts from the field (59.7 percent), including nine of 20 from 3-point range. Manhattan Christian (2-2) committed 22 turnovers, which led to 30 Missouri Southern points.
All 12 of the Lions played at least 12 minutes. Junior guard Jolee Sharp had a team-high six assists, and guards Tee Singleton and Samantha Soyez each had four assists.
“The other thing that was imperative tonight was our players saw our offensive system work,” Mitts said. “With so many new players, we had to move our play-calling from theory to fruition because they needed to see the good shots develop within our system. That will build confidence.”
MSSU led 20-12 with 11 minutes remaining in the first half, then went on a 12-2 run that included a 3-pointer by Sharese Jones with 7:12 remaining for a 32-14 margin.
The Lions maintained their intensity with a 15-3 run in the first six minutes of the second half and led 66-23.
When the Lions weren’t scoring baskets in transition, they looked for opportunities inside and outscored the Ambassadors 52-10 in the paint.
“To win these games, we have to start with defense,” said Dominique Mosley, a 6-foot-1 sophomore who made five of six field-goal attempts and scored 11 points.
“We’re still coming together, learning everybody’s game and everybody’s role. We’re a new team trying new things,” she said. “This will be a great season.”
Leah Pauli, a 5-7 freshman, sank three of eight 3-point attempts and led Manhattan Christian with 13 points. Sarah Wenger made all six of her free throws and scored 11 points in a reserve role.
MSSU outrebounded Manhattan Christian 42-19, led by Kristen Hanna, who had eight rebounds, and Shonte Clay, who had seven rebounds. Libby Witte, a 5-10 freshman, led the Ambassadors with seven rebounds.