Phoenix Sports Writer
TAHLEQUAH – Northeastern State men’s coach Larry Gipson knew that the team that made defensive stops in the second half would be the team that pulled out the win.
Gipson went home as the happier coach.
The RiverHawks held the No. 10 Washburn Ichabods to 48 percent shooting in the second half to pull out an 85-78 win Saturday at Jack Dobbins Field House.
“We told our team at halftime that neither team had stopped each other,” Gipson said. “It was kind of a game where every team had scored. We told our team that the first team that could get some consecutive stops was the team that was gonna win. I thought we did a good job in the second half, we did a better job defensively.”
While the Ichabods shot 58.3 percent (14 of 24) in the first half compared to NSU’s 50 percent (10 of 20), they only led by 32-31 heading into the locker room. The RiverHawks took Gipson’s words to heart, holding Washburn to 44.4 percent shooting (4 for 9) through the first 10 minutes of the half while converting 63.6 percent (7 of 11) of their shots to grab a 54-48 lead with 9:42 remaining.
NSU’s Jermaine Bransford had a big hand in the second half defense as his main objective was to stop Washburn’s Bobby Chipman. Bransford finished the game with 10 points and 12 rebounds, nine of which came in the second half while holding Chipman to four points and two rebounds before fouling out with 6:20 remaining after Chipman posted eight points and three rebounds in the first stanza
“I felt like I was playing a little soft in the first half,” Bransford said. “He’s a pretty strong guy but as soon as he got in foul trouble, I was able to do my thing.”
Bransford was one of four players to reach double figures in scoring for NSU (12-4, 5-3 MIAA) with Bryton Hobbs leading the way with a game-high 25 points while Ethan Anderson and Jon miller had 16 and 14 points, respectively.
When Washburn (10-4, 3-2 MIAA) forced the RiverHawks to convert from the outside, NSU made them pay by converting 13 of 18 3-point attempts (72.2 percent). Miller was 4 for 4, Anderson and Marcus Sheppard were 3 for 4 each while Hobbs was 3 for 6 and had something to prove after his 0 for 4 showing against Central Oklahoma last Wednesday.
“I knew if they were watching film of my last game, I didn’t shoot the ball very well,” Hobbs said. “I just thought they would back up and I took advantage of my opportunities.”
Gipson knows that while this was a big win for his team, the schedule doesn’t get any easier with NSU hosting Pittsburg State on Wednesday.
“We need to be a mature team,” he said. “The last time we won a couple of games in a row, we weren’t a mature team. We need to be a mature team and get ourselves refocused.”
NSU 52, WU 43
Defense was the name of the game for the Northeastern State and Washburn women on Saturday at Jack Dobbins Field House.
The RiverHawks held the No. 9 team in Division II to a season-low in points and shooting in handing the Lady Blues their first loss in MIAA Conference action.
Washburn was second in the MIAA in scoring, averaging 67.9 points per game while NSU was holding opponents to 53.9 points per outing, third in the MIAA right behind the Lady Blues’ 53.7 points per contest. The 43 points was Washburn’s lowest output since being held to 41 against Missouri Western on Dec. 19, 2010.
“They have come back in these situations so we knew it was going to be tough,” said NSU women’s coach Randy Gipson. “We had some bad moments in the first 10 minutes of the second half but then we matched and figured out what we needed to do to win the game.”
Early on, it looked like the RiverHawks (11-5, 5-2 MIAA) would run away with the contest as they raced out to 27-15 advantage with 5:00 remaining in the first half on the strength of Taylor Lewis’ 12 first-half points.
Washburn, who suffered their first MIAA loss and dropped to 5-1 in league play, 11-3 overall, closed the half on an 11-5 run to trim its deficit to 32-23 at the break.
NSU opened the second half by stretching its lead to 38-23 at the 17:55 mark but saw the Lady Blues begin to chip away. By the time of the final media timeout of the second stanza, Washburn had whittled its deficit to 46-43.
“This feels awesome,” Lewis said. “Coach just told us to stay with our plan and to force them into bad looks. They’re a great team and it’s great win for our team.”
Lewis led all scorers with 22 points while Tosha Tyler finished with 10 points. No one finished in double figures for Washburn.