PITTSBURG, Kan. – A near-perfect game was needed by Northwest Missouri State when it journeyed into Lance Arena Thursday evening to face the first-place Pittsburg State Gorillas.
It didn’t quite happen.
A series of turnovers to start the third quarter doomed the Bearcats from making a comeback and pulling off an upset. Instead, Pitt State turned those miscues into baskets and extend a six-point halftime advantage into a double-digit lead. The Gorillas road that comfortable, second-half margin to a 67-52 victory.
“We came out kind of flat in the third quarter and dug ourselves a hole,” said Northwest coach Buck Scheel. “It was several minutes before we made a bucket. That was when they were able to make their run.
“That is what good teams do. You play consistent for four quarters. They make you pay and you try to battle your way out of it.”
Northwest worked hard in the final few minutes in the second quarter to put at least a scare into the Gorillas, but four turnovers in the first five minutes in the third quarter led to a 42-30 deficit.
Unlike the first quarter, when Northwest put together a nice run, the Bearcats were unable to crank up their offensive engine in the third quarter. They trailed 49-34 when the third quarter ended.
Despite a deficit that grew to 18 early in the fourth quarter, Northwest kept battling and closed to 59-51 on two free throws by Alexa Schaaf with 2:55 left.
“We fought to get to that point,” Scheel said. “I think we went back down on the defensive end and didn’t carry out our scout and how we were guarding their penetration and they exposed us.
“We worked so hard to get it back to that point, and that is when you have to dig in and be focused even more and we didn’t.”
Junior Tayna Meyer led Northwest with a game-high 21 points and senior Jasmin Howe added 11.
Scoring runs ruled the first half. Unfortunately, for the Bearcats, the run Pitt State had at the start of the second quarter was the main reason Northwest went into halftime trailing 34-28.
Pitt State scored the first five points, but the Gorillas missed several shots in taking the early lead. They stayed cold and Northwest warmed up. A basket by Howe gave Northwest a 7-5 lead. Sophomore Arbrie Benson followed with a basket and then Howe made two free throws, pushing Northwest’s lead to 11-5.
But after the 11-0 run by Northwest, the Gorillas scored the next seven points for a 12-11. Pitt State took a 14-13 lead into the second quarter. Northwest struck first on a three-pointer by freshman Mallory McAndrews. However, the 16-14 lead was the last one for the Bearcats. Pitt State went on a 14-2 run for a 28-18 lead.
The Bearcats didn’t wilt. They were able to knock four points off their deficit in final 4 minutes of the quarter to stay in striking distance.
“We competed even though we got into some foul trouble and had some crazy lineups out there,” Scheel said. “I thought for the most part, defensively, we did a pretty good job. We did a good job rebounding in the first half.
“I was very pleased how we competed in the first half just to give ourselves an opportunity to be in the game. We showed a lot of fight. We will move on and get ready for Saturday.”
— Northwest Athletics —