The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

December 7, 2013

Strong defensive effort propels Lions past No. 20 Washburn

Ronda Hubbard calls it the Southern way.

“We have always hung our hat on having a great defensive effort,” she said. “It’s one of the things I’ve challenged our team ... I just wasn’t sure yet if this team was taking on the mindset of the Southern way of playing defense.”

Worry no more, coach.

The Lions turned in their best defensive effort of the season and knocked off No. 20 Washburn 68-59 on Saturday afternoon at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

Missouri Southern’s defense limited the Ichabods to 35 percent shooting (10-of-29 in each half). Washburn entered the game shooting 46 percent as a team and averaging 87.8 points — only one game below 83 points.

“We really like to get out and put a lot of pressure on people,” Hubbard said. “We like to be in those passing lanes. There was a certain scheme that we were trying to get accomplished today, and I can tell you they absolutely followed it through perfectly.”

Guard Alexis Fitzpatrick made six of the Lions’ seven steals. Five of her thefts came in the second half, including one that set up her free throw that matched the Lions’ biggest lead, 60-47 with 6:36 remaining. Then after the Ichabods scored 10 straight points to pull within three with three minutes left, a Fitzpatrick steal led to Nicole Hartzog’s layup to start an 8-2 run to finish the game.

“Defense is all we talked about in practice,” Fitzpatrick said. “Coach Hubbard doesn’t really want us to try to get steals, just move our feet, and if the steal is there, it’s there.”

“The defense sparked our offense today,” center Shonte Clay said. “We emphasized that in practice ... defense leads to offense. Get stops, and it ended up in layups on the offensive end.”

Clay, 6-foot-1 senior, made her first start of the season and scored 19 points, hitting 8-of-10 field goals and 3-of-5 free throws.

“Our offense is based on our guards making amazing passes,” Clay said. “I can’t thank our guards enough, especially our point guards in particular. They found me when I was open, and I found the basket. Our assists say it all. ... Thank you guys.”

The Lions (7-1, 2-0 MIAA) had 17 assists on their 24 field goals, led by Samantha Soyez with six and Fitzpatrick with four.

Fitzpatrick also scored a season-high 16 points, going 6-of-10 from the floor and 3-of-5 from 3-point range.

“I’m usually the one who looks for passes,” Fitzpatrick said. “I was on, so I just kept shooting.”

Sharese Jones scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and Dominique Mosley added 11 points and six rebounds off the bench for the Lions, who shot 46 percent.

Janelle Travis scored 19 points to lead Washburn (5-3, 1-1), followed by Casyn Buchman with 14 and Brittney Lynch and Kara Lee with 10 apiece.

In contrast to their last game, the Lions got off to a good start. Fitzpatrick and Clay combined for all the points as the Lions took a 9-2 lead in the first three minutes. The Lions led 33-28 at halftime, and the only time they trailed in the second half is when Washburn scored seven points in the first 76 seconds of the second half for a 35-33 advantage.

Jones’ basket with 14 minutes left put MSSU ahead to stay, 41-39, and Clay’s two baskets on the inside ignited a 9-2 spurt that produced a 51-43 lead midway through the second half.

“It’s such a great team win,” Hubbard said. “It wasn’t one person on the offensive end, it wasn’t one person on the defensive end. It was truly five people on the floor playing really well together ... talking, communicating, all those things have to happen in order to have success.”

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