EDMOND, Okla. – From the outset, Missouri Southern had problems playing defense without fouling.
The Lions fouled one too many times in the end.
Avery Allen sank two free throws with 8.2 seconds remaining to lift Central Oklahoma past Missouri Southern 75-74 in an MIAA women’s basketball opener Thursday night at Hamilton Fieldhouse.
The Lions trailed 65-55 with six minutes left, but two 3-point goals by Kaitlin Hunnicutt on consecutive trips and a three-point play by Megan Jackson after a steal cut the deficit to 67-65 with 4:13 remaining.
Missouri Southern grabbed a 71-70 lead with 2:03 to play on Madi Stokes’ three-point play after an offensive rebound. The Bronchos used a bucket by Kelsey Johnson and one Allen charity for a 73-71 lead with 23.6 seconds left.
Carley Turnbull put the Lions back on top when she drove down the left side of the lane for the bucket and added the free throw with 19.4 left. The Lions knocked the ball out of bounds once on UCO’s last possession, but Allen was fouled on the inbounds pass and made both free throws.
The Lions got one final shot but Hunnicutt missed a 3 from the right side.
The Lions shot 47 percent from the field and made three more field goals and four more treys. But the Lions committed 29 fouls, and the Bronchos sank 22-of-35 free throws to the Lions’ 11-of-14.
“We can’t let a team shoot 35 free throws and expect to win the game in our league,” Lions coach Ronnie Ressel said. “We fouled way too much, and they were fouls. We were hand checking the heck out of them. We weren’t doing a good job of keeping our hands off.”
Turnbull and Hunnicutt tallied 15 and 14 points, respectively, in the Missouri Southern debut. Jackson added 11 points in her first MSSU start, and Stokes snagged 11 rebounds.
“I thought Carley did some good things once she got in a rhythm a little bit in the second half,” Ressel said. “Kaitlin showed what she can do. She’s capable of shooting the basketball. I thought Megan played a really solid game, a few too many turnovers but made her shots.
“We had some good play out of a lot of kids. We made our free throws ... 11-of-14. We just didn’t get there enough. That was the frustrating thing. The kids fought hard ... one foul less. We had a great look at the end, a kid who had shot the heck out of the ball. It just didn’t go in. I’m pleased with the effort, but we have to continue to get better because it doesn’t get any easier.”
Johnson, a senior forward, dominated the inside and scored a career-high 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting from the floor. She also had 11 rebounds.
“Their big kid, she’s good. She’s good,” Ressel said. “The shot she was shooting, the fadeaway, we can’t stop that. We got Madi and Zoe at 6-4 and 6-3, and they weren’t coming close to checking her. She’s worked on that shot a lot, you can tell. She did a great job.”
The Lions led 34-31 at halftime, but five turnovers in the first five minutes of the second half helped the Bronchos take a 38-36 lead. UCO later scored the final six points of the quarter for a 52-44 lead.
“We have to take care of the basketball,” Ressel said. “We had that spurt in the third quarter … they went on a run because of our turnovers. Our defense in the third quarter wasn’t very good at all. Those are things we have to continue to work on.”
The Lions play Saturday afternoon at Newman.