By Nick Hampton
TAHLEQUAH — It was one of those “it wasn’t pretty but…” games for Northeastern State’s RiverHawks, who survived icy second=half shooting to knock off Missouri Southern State 56-48 Wednesday night at Jack Dobbins Field House in MIAA conference action.
After shooting 46 percent from the field in the first half, the RiverHawks (17-6, 12-3) were just 6-of-24 in the second half (25 percent). Fortunately for NSU, the Lions suffered from same problem as they were only 5-of-22 (23 percent) in the half. In fact, neither team was able to dent the scoreboard in the first seven minutes of the second half and NSU coach Randy Gipson wasn’t sure what to say.
“It’s just one of those things that sometimes happens that you can’t explain in basketball,” said Gipson. “We were moving well enough and getting open looks, but we just didn’t knock them down.”
The RiverHawk ladies are in third place, one game behind Washburn in the MIAA.
After losing to NSU by 24 points three weeks ago, the Lions played a much more aggressive game the second time around and hurt the RiverHawks’ pace on offense.
The game was tied 31-31 at halftime and remained that way until the Lions (11-11, 5-9) hit a free throw with 12:49 to play to take what would be their last lead of the game at 32-31.The RiverHawks got the next five points to go up 36-32 and nursed a small lead for the next seven minutes.
Up 46-42 with 3:00 to play, the RiverHawks scored six unanswered points to stretch the lead to 10 at 52-42. The run included a big 3-point shot by senior Taylor Lewis, who was the MIAA Women’s Athlete of the Week last week. The Broken Arrow product had an uncharacteristically poor shooting night (7-of-20), but stepped up in the clutch down the stretch.
“The first half and most of the second were a little bit rough for me. I missed shots and got good looks. But finally they started dropping at the end,” said Lewis.
Tosha Tyler was the leading scorer for the RiverHawks with 19 points while Lewis reached double figures for the 21st time this season with 17 points. The Lions also had a pair in double figures with Johnna tenBerge scoring 14 points and Erin Rice with 11.
The RiverHawks will take to the road Saturday as they travel to Pittsburg State.
Men: NSU 77, MSSU 73
Junior college transfer Bryton Hobbs continued to sparkle for the RiverHawks with a 23 point night and NSU, which decisioned the Lions by 19 points two weeks, hung on for the victory.
“I told coach (MSSU coach Robert) Corn that I was amazed at how much his team had improved in the past two weeks,” said NSU coach Larry Gipson. “They played aggressive and hung in all the way.”
With the RiverHawks (17-6, 10-5) leading 35-34 at the half, NSU came out in the first four minutes of the second half to outscore the Lions 10-3 and open up a 45-37 lead. But Missouri Southern slowly worked the lead down and eventually tied the game at 53-53 with 12:53 to play. The RiverHawks opened the lead back to five again only to have the Lions go on an 8-0 run to grab the lead 66-63 with six minutes to play.
The lead changed hands twice more with the Lions (11-11, 6-8) on top 70-69 with 3:30 to play. Down the stretch, Hobbs and the RiverHawks were too much as they outscored MSSU 8-3 with Hobbs hitting a key basket and three free throws.
“Bryton has far exceeded our expectations when the season started,” said Gipson. “Whenever he’s on the floor, he lifts the confidence level and we know we’ve got a chance to win.”
Like the women, NSU’s men are also in third place, one-half game behind Fort Hays and Central Missouri.
Besides Hobbs, Ethan Anderson with 14 points, Jermaine Bransford with 13 and John Schneider with 11 points were in double figures for the RiverHawks. Jordan Talbert led the Lions with 21 points.