The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

February 1, 2014

Loss costs Lions share of league leadership

Missouri Southern’s 83-78 loss Thursday night at Southwest Baptist not only ended the Lions’ five-game winning streak, but it also cost them a share of the MIAA lead.

The Lions (14-4, 8-3 MIAA) are one game behind Emporia State and Central Missouri. The Lady Hornets lost 72-57 at Fort Hays State.

Things could certainly change in the next week, however, as Missouri Southern and No. 12 Central Missouri play this afternoon in Warrensburg and next Saturday in Joplin.

The Lions fell victim to SBU’s 13 3-point goals, and with the game’s outcome still in doubt, the Lions were called for two charging fouls, one technical foul and one intentional foul in the final 1:18.

The Bearcats’ 83 points tied the most allowed by the Lions this season and were 17 points more than MSSU’s season average.

“We had complete breakdowns defensively,” Lions coach Ronda Hubbard said. “It was the worst defensive game we played all year without a doubt. We haven’t played a worse defensive game.”

The defense faces a big challenge today as the Jennies’ 5-foot-11 senior forward Keuna Flax averages a conference-high 20.6 points per game. She’s shooting 57 percent from the field and 77 percent at the foul line.

“If you can’t contain Flax with a one-on-one effort and you can’t help without being late to get back out, you’re not going to have a good chance of beating them,” Hubbard said. “You’re going to have to be able to do both. Thursday night we were just doing one. We wanted to help but we didn’t want to recover. Or we wanted to say glued to our man and not help. We didn’t want to do the help and recover.”

The Jennies (15-3, 9-2) also lost their last game, 65-64 to Lindenwood that ended a 21-game homecourt winning streak. They haven’t lost consecutive home games since December 2010.

The Jennies’ last four victories have been by a combined 14 points, including a two-pointer in overtime at Pittsburg State. Their other conference loss was 80-67 at Emporia State three weeks ago.

“Central Missouri is super athletic,” Hubbard said. “They shoot the 3 extremely well. In a lot of ways, honestly, they are a little bit like SBU in that they all shoot the ball well from the perimeter, and they have one of the best players in the league.”

Today’s game will be the Lions’ second without junior guard Nicole Hartzog, who suffered a knee injury in practice earlier this week. She averaged 10.6 points and was second on the team in steals (37) and fourth in assists (31).

“It’s a plateau fracture, where the tibia and shin bone go together in the knee joint,” Hubbard said. “It seems to be a small fracture. The problem is it’s a weightbearing place. The good news is she doesn’t have any swelling and she doesn’t feel any pain.”

Hartzog could miss as little as two weeks or as much as the rest of the season, Hubbard said.

Shawnee Phillips replaced Hartzog in the starting lineup, but she had foul trouble against SBU and played only 18 minutes, finishing with more fouls (5) than points (4).

Tee Singleton, who ironically missed the first seven games with knee problems, will also see more playing time with Hartzog’s absence.

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