By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
JOPLIN - The Missouri Western women's basketball team led by as many as eight points in the first half and led 65-59 with 3:20 to play, but. No. 5 Missouri Southern (9-0) ended the game on a 16-4 run and edged the Griffons 75-69 on Saturday afternoon in Joplin.
The Griffons (6-3, 1-1 MIAA) overcame a 10-point deficit in the second quarter, and led 47-45 entering the fourth, but 19 turnovers proved costly in the narrow defeat.
"We gave them the game," Missouri Western women's basketball coach Candi Whitaker said. "They made plays, but we made so many mistakes in those last three minutes on both ends of the floor. I'm disappointed for our team, because I thought they really handled how physical this game was."
There were a lot bright spots for the Griffons in the first 37 minutes. Missouri Western outrebounded MoSo 48-40, the Griffons blocked four shots and outscored MoSo in the paint 36-32.
Junior Brionna Budgets led Missouri Western in scoring with a game-high 19 points. Fellow junior Connie Clarke tallied her fifth double-double of the season with 13 points and a season-high 16 rebounds.
Junior Mary Fultz was also solid with 10 points and seven rebounds. Freshman Kassandra Caron came off the bench and finished with six points on two made threes - her first points as a Griffon.
Missouri Southern sophomore guard and All-American Lacy Stokes was held to nine points on 3-of-18 shooting through the first three quarters, but she scored nine in the fourth quarter to end with 18 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals.
The Lions also got to the free throw line frequently Saturday, knocking down 24-of-30 attempts from the stripe. Missouri Western was 10-of-15 at the foul line.
The loss snaps a four-game winning streak for Missouri Western, as Missouri Southern won its 13th straight home game.
A tough loss in a close game to the team tabbed as the preseason favorite to win the MIAA, but Whitaker remains encouraged by what she's seen from her squad so far this season.
"I think we're playing well and we have a good team," she said. "We'll get it fixed and keep getting better. We're excited about this year and our team. This one hurts, but we have to move on quickly."
Griffon men have scorching hot shooting start, secure win over Lions
The Missouri Western men's basketball team made 12 of their first 13 shots Saturday, including their first five three-point attempts, to take a 32-13 lead with 7:26 left in the first half.
The Griffons (5-2, 2-0 MIAA) rode that momentum the rest of the game, and fended off Missouri Southern down the stretch in a 79-65 win over the Lions at the Leggett and Platt Athletic Center in Joplin Saturday.
Missouri Western led by 19 points on two different occasions. Missouri Southern (4-4, 0-2 MIAA) got to within 10 points twice in the second half, but it never got closer than that.
"We knew this was going to be a big one for us," sophomore guard Taye Fields said after finishing with 13 points and a career-high 17 rebounds Saturday.
"We only get MoSo once (this season), so we knew we had to get this one. We felt like this was a big, important game and it showed."
The Griffons finished the game shooting 62.5 percent (25-of-40) from the field, including 11-of-18 from three. MWSU was also 18-of-24 at the free throw line, including 12-of-13 in the second half.
Missouri Western dominated on the defensive glass 30-14 and held the Lions to just 37.9 percent shooting from the field, including 8-of-24 from three.
The win is Missouri Western's fourth straight overall, and Saturday marked just the second win in Joplin for the program since 2007.
"I feel like this team is getting better," said head coach Will Martin, who has now had a 2-0 start in MIAA play in each of his first three seasons at the helm. "It's always exciting to coach a team that you feel like is making incremental growth. It was awesome to see our offense flourish a little today."
Will Eames and Julius Dixon each had 14 points to lead the scoring for Western. Reed Kemp added 10, while Reese Glover and Zion Swader contributed nine points each.
Both the Missouri Western men and women are back home Thursday to face Nebraska-Kearney. The Loper women are 9-1, while the Loper men are 2-6.
Tip-off times from the MWSU Fieldhouse Thursday are 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Coverage starts at 5 on KFEQ Radio (680, 95.3).
Taye Fields interview
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