By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Missouri Southern: 14-12 season record, 8-10 in MIAA, riding a three-game winning streak since losing nine of 10 games mostly against the league’s top teams.
Northwest Missouri State: 14-12 record, 8-10 league mark, won three straight since losing seven of eight games mostly against the league’s upper echelon.
Based on the numbers, the eighth-seeded Lions and ninth-seeded Bearcats are evenly matched entering tonight’s MIAA Postseason Tournament women’s play-in game at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
The Lions beat the Bearcats 64-55 at home on Jan. 3 to start a four-game winning streak — a feat the Lions certainly would like to duplicate this week.
Tee Singleton hit all five field goals and scored 13 points for the Lions, and Erin Rice, Jolee Sharp and Shatara Stone added 10 apiece. The Lions shot 44 percent to the Bearcats’ 31 percent, and the Lions dominated the rebounding 44-23.
“I thought we were playing pretty good basketball when we beat them the first time,” Lions coach Maryann Mitts said. “Then we hit that rough patch.
“I’d assume we’re playing just as well if not better right now, especially defensively. You don’t see as many gaps in our defense like we had seen weeks ago. It’s nice to be in a position where you’re going on the floor and not questioning yourself like we probably were a couple of weeks ago.”
The Lions beat Central Oklahoma 68-66 and 63-59 sandwiched around a 62-57 victory at Pittsburg State last week. They needed all three victories to secure homecourt advantage tonight as the Bearcats beat Nebraska-Kearney 71-52 and Truman State 72-65 last week.
“They are playing with a lot more confidence,” Mitts said. “The point guard position is much better, much more productive. They look like a team that has adjusted well to a new coach.”
Center Maggie Marnin and guard Ashleigh Nelson average 11.5 and 10.2 points, respectively. Marnin leads the conference in field-goal shooting (59.3 percent), guard Monique Stevens leads the league in assists (4.6) and forward Annie Mathews ranks among the rebound leaders (7.6 while scoring 9.8).
Rice’s 10.3 scoring average leads the Lions, and centers Dominque Mosley and Shonte Clay combine for almost 17 points per game.
“For a while we were getting good play out of one and a half post players,” Mitts said. “Now we’re getting good play from all three, and that offers a completely different dimension than we’ve had in the past.
“We’ll have to play a great 40 minutes again and do a great job on their post game. Typically we’ve outmanned people in the post, but Northwest has very similar post play — big, strong, aggressive and they can run the floor. We’ll have to stop them in their transition game. Dominique, Erin and Shonte are going to have to do a great job getting back down the floor.
“And we have to get through their screens. They set a lot of double screens, a lot of sets similar to what we do. We have to do a good job recognizing what they are running and be able to communicate well on their screening action.”