By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
Shaunna Knife sliced the Missouri Southern defense for 24 points to spark Mary (N.D.) past the Lions 78-61 Friday afternoon at the newly renovated John Lance Arena in the Pittsburg State Tipoff Classic.
Knife, 5-foot-11 senior who averaged 8.9 points on last season’s NCAA Tournament team, popped in 8-of-13 field goals, 5-of-7 from 3-point range and 3-of-4 free throws. She scored 15 points in the second half and also grabbed 11 rebounds, doubling last year’s season average.
Ali Collins and Laura Petersen, the Marauders’ other two returning starters, contributed 16 and 15 points, respectively. Collins also had four assists and five steals.
“We knew they were dribble-drivers,” Lions coach Maryann Mitts said. “Mainly the defense on (Ali Collins) and (Knife), we knew they were their go-to players. We kept looking for a stopper, a kid who would go in and stay between them and the basket and realize every time those two kids had the ball in their hands, something positive was going to happen. A lot of the 3s they got were off the dribble penetration of (Collins), who was able to get by us so readily. We had to help so deep, and it was hard to help and then recover back out.”
The Marauders popped in 11-of-23 attempts from beyond the arc, including one apiece by Knife and McKenzie Foster to ignite a 10-0 spurt in the game’s first four minutes.
“We have to start so much better,” Mitts said. “You can’t get off to that kind of a start because you are in an uphill battle the entire time. ... We need to have more energy and more defense in our starting lineup. The offense will come but we need more energy from our starters and definitely more defense.”
The Lions had four turnovers and three missed shots on their first seven possessions before reserve Jolee Sharp hit a trey from the left wing with 15:32 left. Sharp’s mid-range jumper a minute later cut Mary’s lead to five points, but Knife, Kelsey Peltier and Petersen hit 3s during the next six minutes as Mary opened a 25-13 advantage.
Missouri Southern trailed 37-26 at halftime and by double digits for almost the entire second half, but the Lions hit 50 percent (10-of-20) from the floor in the second half after going 9-of-35 (26 percent) in the first 20 minutes.
“We were more aggressive,” Mitts said. “We were getting any look we wanted in the first half in the post, but our guards were stagnant. The second half I felt our guards started moving a little bit more, we got dribble-penetration and we were able to get a good shot or get fouled, and we got to the free-throw line so much more in the second half (13-of-18 after going 6-of-9 in the first half).”
Shonte Clay notched a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds in her first game for the Lions. Nicole Hartzog was next with nine points, and Dominique Mosley and Sharp had eight apiece.
Mosley injured her right knee with 5:19 left and was helped off the court. Mosley ran out to contest a shot in front of the Mary bench, and she landed awkwardly after avoiding contact with the shooter.
The Lions play Southwest Minnesota State at 1 p.m. today to start the classic’s final session.