Picked to finish in the bottom two spots of the 15-team MIAA, Northwest Missouri State and Nebraska-Kearney served early notice they were undervalued by the league's coaches and media.
Both teams won their MIAA openers Wednesday night against opponents in Lindenwood and Lincoln who were picked multiple spots above them in the preseason polls.
It sets up a Saturday afternoon clash at Bearcat Arena with a 2-0 league start and a share of first place on the line.
Northwest (6-2, 1-0) hasn't started 2-0 in the conference since the 2006-2007 season.
"It's really big," said Northwest Missouri State head coach Mark Kellogg. "You need to win your conference games at home in particular with our schedule. With Midland coming up, we got a nice stretch where we can make a nice run going into the holidays."
Former Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference member Nebraska-Kearney (3-4) is an opponent Kellogg knows well from his time at Fort Lewis, a current RMAC school.
The Lopers are making their first visit to Bearcat Arena since the season opener in 2010-2011.
UNK had lost three straight games before winning its MIAA debut against Lincoln 79-62 at home. All 12 Lopers scored in the game and they shot 57 percent from the field, while outrebounding Lincoln 49-30.
"They're very disciplined," said Kellogg. "They won that game because of their approach. They run pretty good stuff offensively and they shot it well."
Kearney's 79 points were a season-high. The Lopers came into the game ranked at the bottom of the MIAA in scoring offense (58.7 ppg), field goal percentage (.383), three-point percentage (.250) and three-point field goals made (23).
UNK is also turning it over nearly 26 times a game, second-most in the MIAA, while Northwest has caused a league-high 194 turnovers in its first eight games.
Junior forward Shelby Zimmerman is the only Loper averaging in double-figures right now with 12.3 ppg.
She's also shooting close to 59 percent from the field. Melissa Norman, a 6-2 sophomore forward, is the team's leading rebounder (8.0 rpg) and third leading scorer (7.7 ppg).
Northwest is currently outscoring teams by an average of 19 points per game and shooting over 10 percent better from the field.
The Bearcats have won their last two games and opened conference play with a 69-40 thrashing of Lindenwood, a newcomer to the MIAA.
Northwest led by just two at the half before outscoring Lindenwood 43-16 in the second half.
The Bearcats turned it over 24 times but forced 31. Eight different Bearcats played at least 19 minutes and all eight scored at least five points.
One of those—freshman guard Tember Schechinger—recorded her first career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Another, sophomore Annie Mathews, just missed a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds.
Page 2 of 2 - Meridee Scott leads Northwest in scoring with 12.1 points per game. Ashleigh Nelson (11.0) ppg), Mathews (10.4 ppg) and Schechinger (10.4) all average in double-figures as well.