Lions' streak ends at 15; Jennies' shooting effort leads to upset in women's basketball game

Feb. 12—The streak comes to a close at 15 games.

Central Missouri (16-6, 10-6 MIAA) came into the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center and made shots at a high clip and slowed down the offensive attack of 24th-ranked Missouri Southern (18-5, 14-3 MIAA) on Saturday afternoon to end the Lions' long winning streak in a 78-65 final.

"Congratulations to Central Missouri. They played so much harder than we did for 40 minutes," MSSU head coach Ronnie Ressel said. "From the start of the game to the end of the game. Offensively, they executed extremely well. Their shooters hit shots. Their kids that had been struggling knocked shots down. They played with a lot of confidence today."

MSSU trailed for the majority of the contest. It was a 9-point deficit at halftime and that quickly ballooned before the Lions ever responded in the third quarter.

A Kennady Roach 3-pointer at the end of the third brought the deficit down to 13. But the fourth quarter was just a back-and-forth battle. If the Lions scored, so did the Jennies. If the Lions got a stop, so did the Jennies — it seemed. The difference was never smaller than 11 points, and UCM grew the lead to 17 at one point in the final period of play.

MSSU couldn't manage enough stops defensively as UCM shot 49% (24 of 49) in the game. It was efficient from beyond the arc at 55.6% (10 of 18). And the group from Warrensburg, Missouri, didn't forfeit much at the free throw line, going 20 of 24 (83.3%).

"We were a little slow in our help recovers," Ressel said. "I thought we were out of position a little bit getting back to their shooters."

It was a spread-scoring effort from the Jennies as four players finished in double figures and three-time MIAA Women's Basketball Athlete of the Week Brooke Littrell led the way with 19 points and 10 rebounds. The redshirt junior had nine rebounds at halftime.

Ashley Tull had an efficient 13 minutes. Tull started but didn't play a lot due to fouls but still finished with 16 points and didn't miss a single shot on six attempts. She was 4 of 6 on free throws. Tull finished with four fouls in the contest.

Olivia Nelson added 15 points and was a perfect 8 for 8 on charities while Ali Vigil chipped in 14 points and was a perfect 4 for 4 on 3-pointers.

"We have to give them a lot of credit. They're a good team," Ressel said. "We struggled at times offensively to do some things. I just didn't think we were consistent. Especially defensively."

MSSU was led by Brandi Hudson's 27 points and 11-of-11 shooting on free throws. Nine of her free shots came in the second half to power her 19-point half as the Lions tried to claw back into it.

Hudson would catch the ball in the paint, make a move and either get the layup to go or get fouled — sometimes both.

She talked about the performance from herself and her teammates in this game and how they bounce back from it.

"Coach Ressel said it best in the locker room. We just have to key in on defense in practice and go at each other," Hudson said. "This game was on us. We should have played a little harder, and that's it. We will play harder next game.

"We have to get after them (opposition) from the start. We just can't wait until the end. Full 40 minutes."

Southern didn't shoot the ball poorly by any stretch going 21 of 46 overall (45.7%), 5 of 13 from outside (38.5%) and 18 of 23 on free shots (78.3%).

And turnovers weren't much of a factor in the game as MSSU coughed it up just 11 times in comparison with UCM's nine miscues.

The rebounding numbers did swing to Central's favor 31-22 and 9-5 in offensive caroms.

This is just the fifth time an opponent has scored 70 or more points on the Lions, and they've only won one game when the opposition goes north of that number. They have not allowed 70 or more since Dec. 2 at then-No. 23 Missouri Western.

MSSU seemed a little hesitant to attack the rim at times other than Hudson's second-half scores, and UCM was rotating quickly on passes around the key, and the Lions couldn't get many open looks from the 3-point line like they usually do. Kaitlin Hunnicutt even had an outside shot blocked by Littrell.

"In the MIAA, if you're going against a set defense, every possession, that's difficult," Ressel said as he explained that UCM's made shots allowed it to have a set half-court defense often times in the game. "We didn't string enough stops together."

With Missouri Western won Saturday, it's now a two-team tie at the top of the MIAA standings with MSSU. The Griffons are 19-4 overall (14-3 MIAA) and have won nine straight after a 61-51 win over Emporia State.

The Lions prepare for Pittsburg State at home at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

"Every one's a big game because they're against a good team," Ressel said. "Every one's going to become important."