Nov. 20—It was an important night out at the MWSU Fieldhouse on Monday as the No.25-ranked Missouri Western women were in search of their first 3-0 start since 2021, as they did so in their home opener against NAIA opponent the University of Saint Mary.
It was a little reunion as well. Two familiar faces around St. Joseph were in the building, as former Benton Cardinal Kelsey Johnson was on the Western sideline and former Bishop LeBlond Golden Eagle Tatum Studer was on the Spires sidelines and both even got to compete.
Despite a scrappy first half from the Spires, Western was able to pull away in the second half, winning 103-65, outscoring Saint Mary 64-29 after only leading 39-36 at half.
"All wins are good wins, obviously," head coach Candi Whittaker said. "Wish we would have played better in the first half, but maybe a good wake up call for us in a lot of ways."
The first half was a dog fight, as Western wasn't able to pull ahead and put this one away early, as they only led 19-17 before finally creating momentum. The small momentum was a 5-0 run nearing the end of first quarter to increase its lead to 24-17, but the Spires rallied, and Western entered the quarter break with a 24-22 advantage.
The second quarter began much like the first, with both teams exchanging blows. Western would have another run in them, this time a 9-0 run to increase their lead to 33-22. Once again, the ability to get rebounds helped the Spires, and the Griffons were hanging onto a 39-36 advantage heading into halftime.
"Saint Mary did a lot of great things in the first half to expose us, particularly on the glass and some effort plays and on the defensive end," Whittaker said.
Halftime adjustments would be made from the Griffons, and they were able to push it to 52-44 before going on a 9-0 run again, to expand its lead further to 61-44 in the third quarter. Before the third was over, the Griffons kept attacking the paint scoring 18 of its 34 third quarter points downlow, extending to a 73-48 lead.
Western was able to reach the century mark with 48 seconds remaining, as Camille Evans got the lay-up and again Western took the opportunity downlow, scoring 16 of its 30 fourth quarter points in the paint.
"We picked it up. We were much better on the defensive end and then made better decisions on the offensive end," Whittaker said. "Got on the glass, we had no offensive rebounds hardly in the first half, and we were much better there in the second half."
The Griffons had five players score in double figures, led by Connie Clarke, who had 21 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Mackenzie Hart added 13 points and three steals off of the bench and Kassandra Caron added her own 11 points off the bench.
Missouri Western women back in action Friday at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas.
Calvin Silvers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.