Big second half push lifts SBU to 55-50 win over Lions

Bolivar, Mo. -- The Missouri Southern Lions led by nine at the half, but the Southwest Baptist Bearcats rallied in the second half for a 55-50 win Saturday evening (Jan. 30) at the Meyer Sports Center in Bolivar, Mo.

A layup by Jasmine Lovejoy gave the Lions a 28-20 lead but Chasity Prince nailed a three that cut the lead to five with 17:33 remaining.

Both teams then went scoreless for the next two minutes when Whitney Malone broke the scoring drought with a layup that made it a three-point game at the 15:28 mark.

Another layup by Malone cut the Lion lead to one before Michelle Hedgecock split two free throws that put the Lions back up by two. 

The Bearcats then twice split a pair of free-throws that tied the score before Prince scored to give SBU their first lead of the game at 31-29 with 12:48 remaining that prompted a timeout by MSSU.

The Lions responded well after the timeout with five straight and led 34-31 on a layup by LaTice Jones.

SBU quickly jumped back in front with a 9-4 run as Courtney Heady drilled a trey that made it 40-38 in favor of the Bearcats with 7:54 left.

The Lions again fought back as Jolea Apon and Erin Rice each hit two free throws to put the Lions ahead by two at the 5:58 mark.

Malone hit another layup that tied the score but Rice answered for the Lions with a free-throw and then a score inside for a 45-42 lead with 4:25 left.

But that would be the Lions' last lead of the game as Ashleigh Gallio tied the score with a three and Rachel Graves hit two free throws that put the Bearcats up 47-45 with 3:38 left.

Lovejoy split a pair at the charity stripe to make it a one-point game but Heady answered with a layup on the other end that put the Bearcats ahead 49-46.

The Lions trailed by four when they forced a turnover that led to Lovejoy heading to the line and hitting one free throw that brought the Lions to within 53-50. 

Southern was then forced to foul and Graves hit a pair of critical free throws that sealed the win for the Bearcats.

The Lions (11-9, 5-8 MIAA) got off to a strong start by scoring the first five points of the game before SBU answered with a 10-5 run to tie the score on a layup by Jasmine Sanford at the 13:58 mark of the first half.

The Lions then clamped down on the defensive end and out-scored the Bearcats 14-2 over the next 10 minutes to lead 24-12 with 3:55 remaining in the opening half.  The Lions took a 26-17 lead into the locker room.

Rice led the Lions with 13 points and Lovejoy added 12 along with a team-high seven rebounds.

Graves had a team-best 13 points for the Bearcats (4-15, 2-10 MIAA) on 3-of-10 from the field but 6-of-6 from the charity stripe.  Malone and Prince each scored 10 for SBU.

The Lions continued their recent dominance on the boards with a 38-26 rebounding advantage overall and a 12-5 edge on the offensive glass. 

This marks the fourth time in the last five games that the Lions have enjoyed a double-digit advantage in rebounds.

But free-throw shooting proved costly for the Lions as they managed only a 59 percent shooting clip (13-of-22) from the foul line.

The Lions will next play on Saturday evening (Feb. 6) at home against the Missouri Western Griffons.  Tip-off is set for 5:30 p.m. at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.  The Griffons won the first matchup this season (12/30/09) 78-62 in St. Joseph, Mo.