Joplin, Mo. - Receiving votes in the USA Today WBCA Women's Basketball poll for the first time this season after defeating Fort Hays State at home on Saturday, the Missouri Southern women's basketball looks to continue their strong play hitting the road on Wednesday traveling to Central Oklahoma to face the Bronchos at 5:30 p.m. at the Hamilton Field House.
Teams: Missouri Southern (9-2, 3-1 MIAA) vs. Central Oklahoma (7-5, 2-3)
Date: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014
Tip-Off: 5:30 p.m., CT
Location: Edmond, Okla.
Site: Hamilton Field House (3,000)
Series Record: MSSU leads 14-6 (Home: 7-1, Away: 5-1, Neutral: 2-4)
Coaches: Ronda Hubbard (9-2 at MSSU, overall). Guy Hardaker (142-77 at Central Oklahoma, 142-77 overall).
MSSU Radio: KZYM-AM 1230 The Talker, Mike McClure, Play-by-Play
Live Stats: http://www.sidearmstats.com/uco/wbball/
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Last time out for the Lions (9-2, 3-1 MIAA): With five Lions finishing in double figures, led by sophomore guard Sharese Jones, the Missouri Southern women's basketball team won a back-and-forth battle Saturday afternoon (Jan. 4) over Fort Hays State 76-71 at the the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center. The St. Charles native finished with a game-high 18 points, going 11-of-15 from the free throw line, while Shonte Clay added 14 points and grabbed a team-best eight rebounds. Nicole Hartzog added 13 points for Southern (9-2, 3-1 MIAA), all coming from the free throw line, while Samantha Soyez scored a career-high 12 points, going a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line.
With the Lions trailing by five coming out of halftime, Southern looked to cool off the hot-shooting Tigers, scoring the first four points of the second half on layups from Clay and Jones to pull within one. After a layup and free throw from the Tigers pushed their lead back to four, Jones nailed a three-pointer and Jones knocked down a pair of free throws to take their first lead of the second half going up 45-44 with 16:13 to play. Fort Hays proceeded to go on a 19-10 run to take a 63-55 edge, their largest lead of the game with 8:39 to play, before the Lions made some timely plays and found the hot-hand from the free-throw line to propel a comeback.
Pulling within a point at 66-65 with 5:21 to go, Soyez nailed her second three-pointer of the game to give the Lions a 68-66 lead, one they would not relinquish winning by a final of 76-71. The Lions shot 7-for-12 from the free-throw in the final 3:18. The Lions held Hays to 34.6% (9-26) shooting from the field in the final 20 minutes.
Last time out for the Bronchos (7-5, 2-3): Poor outside shooting led to a tough road loss for Central Oklahoma Saturday afternoon (Jan. 4) as the Bronchos fell to MIAA rival Northwest Missouri 78-72. Jill Bryan led UCO with a career-high 28 points while adding five rebounds and four steals. Britney Morgan and Julia Mason scored 14 points apiece, with Mason also pulling down eight rebounds.
The Bronchos trailed most of the game and were down eight (66-58) with 5:30 left to play before rallying to make it close at the end. Morgan hit a rare 3-pointer for UCO at the 5:01 mark to cut the deficit to five at 66-61 and it was 67-63 after Mason's layup with 3:15 remaining. Bryan followed a NWMSU bucket with one free throw at 2:17 and a Chelsea Robinson steal led to two Bryan foul shots at 1:58 to make it 69-66. The Bearcats turned the ball over again on their next possession and Mason drained two charity tosses with 1:21 left to pull UCO within one at 69-68. NWMSU pushed the lead back to 71-68 with two free throws at 1:17 and the Bronchos couldn't answer back. UCO had a turnover and missed shot on its next two possessions and the Bearcats hit four straight foul shots to put the game out of reach.
The Coaches: Ronda Hubbard (9-2) is in her 13th year on the staff at Missouri Southern and was promoted to the position of Interim Head Coach on July 2, 2013 after the retirement of Maryann Mitts. During her 12 years with the Lions, she has helped the team to a 189-145 record, including winning marks and a trip to the MIAA post season tournament in all but one of those 12 seasons. In 2000-01, Hubbard helped the University of Texas-Pan American post its most wins in a season since becoming an NCAA Division I institution in 1985, and the second most victories in school history. Prior to her stint at Texas-Pan American, she served on current Lions head coach Maryann Mitts' staff as an assistant at Rockhurst University from 1996-2000. There, she helped the Lady Hawks post a 68-45 record and advance to the 1997-98 Sweet 16.
Guy Hardaker (142-77) is in his eighth year as Central Oklahoma's head women's basketball coach turning the Bronchos into a perennial NCAA Division II national tournament contender. A member of the UCO Athletic Hall of Fame, Hardaker took over the helm in 2006 after a highly-successful stint as boys high school basketball coach. He's led UCO to its first four Division II national tournament appearances and the Bronchos won 20-plus games a school-record four consecutive seasons. Guy guided Central to a top-two finish in the Lone Star Conference North Division from 2008-12 (two firsts, three seconds) in the league.
The series between the two schools: The Lions lead the overall series with the Bronchos 14-6. Southern has a 7-1 edge at home, while they are 5-1 at Central Oklahoma and are 2-4 at a neutral site. The Lions took both games in the series last year winning at home 68-66 and in the regular season finale at UCO 63-59. Southern has won 13 of the previous 14 matchups with the Bronchos.
Scouting the Bronchos: Central Oklahoma comes into Wednesday's game coming off a loss to Northwest Missouri last Saturday 78-72. The Bronchos are led in scoring by senior guard Jill Bryan with 15.0 points per game while sophomore forward Julia Mason is averaging 11.5. ppg. Olivia Mason is leading the team in boards with 5.8 rpg while her sister Julia is right behind her grabbing 5.7 rpg. Former MSSU Lion Haley Weathers, who played at Southern in 2011-12, has started all 12 games at guard for UCO averaging 9.2 ppg, while shooting 38% from the field. UCO ranks 9th in the MIAA in scoring average with 72.0 ppg., 7th in free-throw percentage at 72.5% and 9th in three-point percentage at 31.5%.
Lions receiving votes in the WBCA Women's Poll: For the first time this season, Southern received votes in the USA Today WBCA Women's basketball poll garnering 14 votes. Along with top ten ranked Emporia State and Central Missouri, the Lions and Fort Hays State are currently the only ranked MIAA teams.
MIAA Team Rankings: The Lions rank 1st in the MIAA in free-throw percentage (.765), 2nd in FG percentage (.455), 4th in assists per game (16.3), 4th in scoring margin (+9.9 ppg.), rebounding defense (35.0 rpg) & steals (9.3 spg), 5th in assist/turnover ratio (1.0). and 7th in scoring offense (75.3 ppg.).
MIAA Individual Rankings: Samantha Soyez continues to lead the MIAA in assists averaging 5.2 apg as she has dished 52 helpers in 10 games. Alexis Fitzpatrick ranks 4th averaging 4.2 apg.
Shonte Clay ranks 6th in the MIAA in FG percentage as she is shooting 56.2% from the field hitting 50-89 on the year. Dominique Mosley ranks 10th hitting 53.8% (78-145). Sharese Jones is 11th at 53.4% (47-88).
Nicole Hartzog ranks 3rd in the MIAA in FT percentage at 84.3% hitting 43-of-51 on the year. Jones ranks 7th at 80% (64-80).
Fitzpartick leads the MIAA in steals averaging 2.4 swipes per game. She also leads the MIAA in assist/turnover ratio at 3.5 as she has 46 assists and only 13 turnovers.
Jones ranks 4th in the league in rebounding grabbing 8.3 rpg. Mosley is 10th grabbing 7.3 rpg.
Mosley ranks 4th in the MIAA in scoring averaging 17.5 ppg. Jones is 10th at 14.9 ppg. Clay is 20th with 11.9 ppg. Hartzog is 26th w/ 11.0 ppg.