By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
TAHLEQUAH – It was the story all afternoon, not only for Tosha Tyler but the entire Northeastern State team. Either the shots were, as she put them, too hard, too soft, or a little left or right – and when they did fall, there weren’t any second chances.
So in the end, Truman State’s Megan Sharpe gave her a little realignment and in the process, a four-point play with 24 seconds left that proved to be the game-winner in a 46-44 win Saturday over the No. 18 Bulldogs at Jack Dobbins Field House.
Tyler took a pass from Fontana Tate and, after starting to drive the lane, stopped and hurled a 3-point shot attempt. Sharpe slapped her left (non-shooting) hand. The shot went in and Sharpe was whistled for her fourth foul.
“Maybe that’s what I needed for it to finally go in was for someone to smack my hand,” she said.
It gave Northeastern State the lead for good as the RiverHawks (16-6, 11-3 MIAA), struggling all day offensively, were winners for the eighth time in nine tries.
Sarah Green’s free throw off Sharpe’s fifth foul with 6.5 seconds left raised the margin to the final count and Becka McHenry’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was way short for Truman State (16-5, 9-4), which lost back-to-back games for the first time this season.
NSU was 17-of-45 from the field (37.8 percent) and rarely got any second-chance opportunities, collecting only three offensive rebounds the entire game. That problem was shared by Truman as well. The Bulldogs were 15-of-49 from the field (30.6 percent) and 6-of-21 from 3-point range (28.6 percent), and finished with five offensive caroms.
Green, who led NSU in both scoring with 11 points and rebounds with seven, had no offensive boards. It wasn’t a season-low teamwise in that category – NSU had three against Washburn in a 52-43 win Jan. 19, that win came shooting 43 percent from the field.
Tyler, who came in averaging 11 points, finished with seven. Taylor Lewis, whose 3-pointer with 6:10 to go gave NSU its first lead of the game, had eight points, half her 16.2 per-game average.
“They’re a very good, solid team. They played hard and really wanted this win,” Tyler said. “They were denying the reversals and playing strong. It’s hard to move them. They just played in your lap.”
McHenry, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer at 13 per game, was held to five points. Allie Norton, who led all scorers with 20 points, regained the lead for Truman with a 3-pointer just before Green went inside the paint to back up 38-37 with 4:46 to play, marking NSU’s second lead of the game. Amy Briggs’ 3 with 1:19 left put the Bulldogs up 40-39, setting the stage for Tyler’s game-winning play.
Coming off a season-high 49 first-half points against Lindenwood on Thursday, the RiverHawks came out against Truman and were empty on their first eight possessions, going 0-for-7 with one turnover. Truman couldn’t take much of an advantage, leading by only 6-0 when Carrington Fox broke the ice with a layup at the 14:43 mark.
NSU also had six chances down one to take the lead, all late in the half. Fox’s underhand layup off a pivot with 1:39 left tied the game at 19, and another two chances to break the tie wound up as so many first-half possessions did, as one-shot opportunities.
In all, NSU missed 13 chances to either tie or take the lead, but won for the first time in five times they’ve trailed at the half.
“It was a game no team ever had control of,” NSU coach Randy Gipson said. “I’m proud of Tosha for stepping up and making a play in a game where everything was a struggle.”
NSU 72, Truman St. 56
Bryton Hobbs burned Truman State again.
Hobbs scored 28 points to lead the RiverHawks (16-6, 9-5), who were coming off a 78-66 home loss to Lindenwood on Thursday. It was his shot with 3.2 left that gave NSU a 72-71 win in the Quincy, Ill., holiday tourney on Dec. 19. In that contest, he had a 13-point performance.
His coach, Larry Gipson, saw a better and more patient offense that fell victim to a mentally-tougher Lindenwood team.
“Thursday I thought we got beat by a team that was very tough minded, they were very determined and disciplined and ran their offense until they get what they want out of it. We panicked and shot too quick," the coach said. "Tonight we didn’t shoot to quick. I think we were more patient and ran it well. We shared the ball extremely well, I thought.”
The RiverHawks shot 54.6 percent for the game (25-of-46) and hit half of its 20 3-point attempts as well, while holding the Bulldogs to 37.3 percent (22-of-59) for the game and 27 percent (6-of-22) from beyond the arc.
It was the first MIAA foe the RiverHawks have seen a second time this season.
Jermaine Bransford had 14 points and 10 rebounds, an echo of the double-double he had in the first meeting (23 points, 13 boards). The same three RiverHawks had double figures – Ethan Anderson had 11 points.
“Everybody’s getting in the gym before practice, after practice and getting shots,” Hobbs said. “It was just waiting for us to come out here and get 3s.”
Truman (7-14, 4-9) was led by Seth Jackson and Mike Carlson, both with 13 points against a defense Gipson said was the biggest difference from the first meeting.
“Both of us weren’t very good defensively that night. I think tonight we were very good defensively. I think we took them out of what they wanted to do and denied shots.”
A 19-6 run in the second half put it away. Hobbs began it with a pair of free throws to make it a 47-40 game and his 3 with 5:50 to play had the RiverHawks up by their biggest margin, 64-46.
NSU is home for its next-to-last game at Dobbins on Wednesday against Missouri Southern.