By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Missouri Southern’s basketball season began last weekend with a 78-61 loss to Mary (N.D.), an NCAA Tournament team last season.
Six days — and two victories — later the Lions can measure themselves against another NCAA Tournament team tonight when Newman visits the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center for a 5:30 tipoff.
“What we have done the last two games, we can see if we can do the same thing against a very good basketball team,” Lions coach Maryann Mitts said. “That’s the next step we have to take, to prove where we are.”
There’s also some familiarity between the Lions and Jets, starting with Newman’s 67-50 victory last November in Joplin in the Pizza Hut/Fairfield Inn Thanksgiving Classic. Lions assistant coach Jaime Green was Newman’s head coach last year when the Jets finished 23-6 and lost in the first round of the South Central Regional in Topeka. Also, guard Samantha Soyez transferred from Newman to MSSU this year.
“I try not to bring it up too much,” Mitts said. “Obviously we’ve talked about it as a program.”
Tonight is Newman’s third game of a season-opening six-game road trip. The Jets won 64-59 at Rockhurst before losing Tuesday night 77-66 at Emporia State.
Kianna Flannagan, 5-foot-8 senior guard, had 20 points against Rockhurst and 17 against Emporia State. She also averages 5.5 points and 3.5 assists.
“Newman likes to run the dribble-drive offense,” Mitts said. “One of the things we didn’t do a very good job against University of Mary is we didn’t contain their guards. It will be imperative that we don’t allow their guards to penetrate deep in the lane because they do a good job of finding the open 3-point shooter or dumping it to the post. Hopefully we will be a little better against that than we were in the first game of the season.
“Newman has played some good competition. I’m sure they will be up for the game.”
Shonte Clay, 6-2 junior center, averages 10.3 points to lead a balanced Lions attack.
Center Dominique Mosley and guard Nicole Hartzog average nine points apiece, and Jolee Sharp, Sharese Jones, Erin Rice, Shatara Stone and Soyez are all around seven points a game.
The Lions had 25 assists in Monday night’s 90-44 victory over Manhattan Christian, and they saw success at both ends of the court.
“We were getting shots from people who needed to have them, and we were moving the basketball,” Mitts said. “It was important that our basketball team realized those plays would work.
“Certain people’s defense also got better. It was a little slower paced game, and they were able to get to spots better and see our defense work.”