Taking command during the third quarter, Missouri Southern rolled past Graceland 89-56 Wednesday night in the Lions’ home opener on Robert Corn Court inside the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
Leading 44-32 at halftime and by 10 points early in the third quarter, the Lions went on an 18-0 spurt, and they did the job at both ends of the floor while expanding their lead.
Offensively they made 9-of-14 field goals, including 1-of-2 from beyond the arc. Layne Skiles and Zoe Campbell combined for nine of the first 10 points – a jumper and 3-pointer by Skiles and two charities and a reverse layup by Campbell. In the middle of those nine points, Chasidee Owens made a free throw.
Morgan Brightwell then went coast-to-coast for a layup, Jordan Schoenberger hit a short jumper, and Megan Jackson scored on consecutive trips with a spin on the left side and jumper from the right baseline for a 64-36 cushion with 2:15 left in the quarter.
On the defensive end the Lions forced the Yellowjackets into 0-of-11 shooting from the field, 0-of-5 from long range, four turnovers and only three possessions were not one shot-and-done. A free throw with 1:36 left in the quarter halted a 7 1/2 minute drought, and Graceland made two field goals in the last 30 seconds of the quarter.
“We were creating some problems ... getting them out of their offense was the big thing,” Ressel said. “And I thought offensively we really executed well. We got good looks, and we got to the basket. We had several kids get to the rim, get fouled, make a shot. We created some turnovers and made them take tough shots.”
“I think we shared the ball really well tonight,” Skiles said. “We struggled to execute at times, but when we did execute, it looked really well. It was exactly how we practiced it, and we picked up our intensity in the second half.”
The Lions (1-2) had balanced scoring throughout the game as five players finished in double figures. Owens led the way with 14 points plus nine rebounds in 22 minutes. Campbell matched her season average with 13 points and seven boards, Skiles and Destiny Cozart each scored 12 and Brightwell finished with 10.
Cozart hit nothing but net on her first two shots — both three pointers —and made four of the Lions’ 10 treys. Skiles also snared a game-high 10 rebounds for her first collegiate double-double.
“It feels like basketball season was just yesterday but so far away,” Skiles said. “We love being out here on the home court. We won’t get to see it much this month, so we’re taking advantage of what we can.”
“I liked how she put the ball on the floor and got to the basket tonight,” Ressel said. “She was aggressive. I thought she got fouled a couple more times than what they called, but I was pleased with her effort getting to the rim.”
The Lions led just 23-20 after one quarter, but they held the NAIA Yellowjackets (1-4) to 13 points or less in each of the last three quarters.
“Besides the first quarter, I liked everything else,” Ressel said. “We got off to such a slow start. Defensively I didn’t think our effort was very good in the first quarter, but after that I was pleased with our effort for the next three quarters. I thought we got out and took some things away, and we contested shots, made them take tough shots, and we were able to get rebounds. Offensively we executed much better after the first quarter.”
“We started a little slow, which we can’t do in other ball games, in the MIAA especially,” Skiles said. “In the second half you could tell our defense picked it up a little bit and the results were shown.”
Mbaruk Heaven led Graceland with 12 points — all in the first half — and Kailey Boden had 10 points.
The Lions travel to Illinois this weekend for games against Illinois-Springfield on Saturday night and McKendree on Sunday afternoon.