By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
With the help of a former Rockhurst basketball player, Missouri Southern is playing a women’s basketball exhibition game at the University of San Francisco.
“A former player from Rockhurst lives in San Francisco,” said coach Maryann Mitts, who coached at Rockhurst before becoming the Lions’ coach in 2001. “A few years ago Coach (Ronda) Hubbard went there and visited the player, and in the process she was able to go to dinner with Jennifer Azzi (former Stanford All-American and the USF coach).
“That relationship built, and a phone call to Jennifer was how the exhibition game was arranged. Ronda set up the game through their assistant over the summer.”
Tipoff is tonight at 9 (Joplin time).
The Lions’ travel party arrived in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon in time to catch the end of the Giants’ World Series celebration. The Lions also will scrimmage an NCAA Division II school on Saturday before returning to Joplin on Sunday.
The Dons are picked last in the nine-team West Coast Conference preseason poll.
This is the Lions’ second exhibition game. They lost 65-58 to Livin’ The Dream last Saturday.
“We saw some things that are difficult areas for us,” Mitts said. “No. 1 turnovers, we had 28 turnovers, which is 13 more than we would like. No. 2, lack of physicality ... we were outrebounded (42-37).
“Other than that, when we talk about our performance goals for every game, we were close to what we needed to have happen.”
Sophomore Nicole Hartzog led the Lions with 13 points against LTD, Johnna TenBerge added 10, and Erin Rice had eight points and eight rebounds.
“USF is going to be much more athletic and a little bit stronger and more explosive,” Mitts said. “We have to become a more physical team. We shot 81 percent from the free-throw line, but we only were able to make nine shots (in 11 attempts). We have to get to the line more.
“The tempo will be much quicker. In preseason this is what you want to do, expose your weaknesses and see what your strengths are. Whatever you can execute against the Division I level, you will probably be successful in the MIAA.”