By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
After scoring 19 points in the first half, Missouri Southern erupted for a 16-0 burst in the first seven minutes of the second half.
But a 20-point halftime deficit and 32 turnovers proved too much to overcome and Emporia State held on for a 62-55 victory over the Lions in MIAA women’s basketball action Saturday night at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
The Lions’ Erin Rice, playing her penultimate home game, fired in 28 points – two below her career high two seasons ago against Washburn. Rice, 6-foot-2 forward, scored eight straight points during a two-minute span early in the first half and tallied 18 points after halftime, finishing 11-of-15 from the floor and 5-of-6 at the foul line.
“The funny thing is I didn’t hit a shot during warmups,” said Rice, who also had five steals. “As a player, you kind of think to yourself what kind of game is this going to be. Also you think this could only be good, getting all my misses out. I just kept my head into it. My dad does a great job of helping me correct my shot during the game. Sometimes it’s easier to hear it from him than it is from the other side. I was just able to connect tonight.”
Rice’s four-point play – a 3-pointer from the left corner as she was fouled and the ensuing free throw – moved her into ninth place on the Lions’ career scoring list. She ended the game with 1,153 points.
“Erin was phenomenal,” Lions coach Maryann Mitts said. “She was getting tremendous elevation on her shot. Tonight I think she could have jumped, found the basket, adjust her shot and score. She is one who was ready to play.”
Samantha Soyez scored eight points for the Lions (11-12, 5-10 MIAA), who shot 59 percent (13-of-22) in the second half after only 32 percent (8-of-25) in the second half.
“If we had only played that way in the first half,” Rice said. “Tonight I am probably going to rethink everything that happened in the first half. Unfortunately we can’t take that back, but we definitely we would have had a different ending to the game if we had played the first half like we did the second.”
The Lions, down 39-19 at the half, didn’t score for the first 2:14, but they ran off 16 straight points during the next four-plus minutes, including five points apiece by Rice and Soyez and a trey off the glass by Nicole Hartzog.
Emporia State (16-6, 11-3) missed three shots and committed 10 turnovers before scoring on Laura Patrick’s layup with 12:22 left sparked a 6-0 run. The Lady Hornets re-established a 14-point lead before the Lions climbed within five during the last two minutes.
With 5:50 remaining a loose ball battle in front of the Hornets’ bench produced one personal foul, three technicals and an ejection.
The Hornets’ Sarah Wood, after losing the ball, fouled Tee Singleton, and Singleton responded with a shove. After viewing the replay monitor, the officials hit Wood with a foul, Wood and Singleton with a double technical, and Merissa Quick was ejected for leaving the bench and coming on the court.
Quick had 18 points to lead the Hornets to their ninth straight victory, and Rachel Hanf and Patrick had 13 and 12, respectively.
Both teams struggled to score at the outset as the Lions made one of their first eight attempts and Emporia State went 2-for-9. But the Hornets made 15 of their final 21 attempts as they built a 39-19 halftime advantage.
The Lions, in addition to 32 percent shooting, had 17 turnovers – many of them unforced as ESU had seven steals.
“Everyone was slow,” Rice said. “We didn’t look like we believed we could beat them. … I think in the locker room (at halftime) I think we finally got into people’s heads that you got to believe before something happens. We were able to get several defensive stops in a row and score off the turnovers, which was a huge kick to our start.”
“I was very disappointed in our approach to this basketball game,” Mitts said. “Obviously Erin Rice responded exactly how you’re supposed to respond. But I really feel like we had a group of young ladies in that locker room that felt without Dominique (Mosley, who missed the game because of a death in the family), how big is this hill to climb. I saw no fight in this basketball team the first half. Had we seen fight in the first half, this would have been a win.”