Going into the holiday break, Northwest Missouri State's women's basketball team has been one of the MIAA's bigger surprises.
Picked to finish 14th in the league, Northwest won its first two MIAA games by an average of 20 points and is currently tied atop the conference with Fort Hays State.
At 8-2 overall, the Bearcats already have two more wins than last year and the second-most of any team league-wide. They've outscored the opposition by an average of 19.7 points per game.
All that said, first-year head coach Mark Kellogg is reluctant to fully buy into his team's early success due to the lack of challenging games on their schedule to this point. Three of the team's eight wins have come against NAIA competition.
And none of the five Division II team's they've beaten have a winning record.
"I think we're in a good spot," said Kellogg. "But I'm real careful acting like we're where we need to be by any means. I don't think we're anywhere close. We've beaten the teams I think we're supposed to beat or have a chance to beat."
A more accurate read on the Bearcats will be available during the month of January when they play three straight and six of their first seven games away from Bearcat Arena.
Included in that are road games at No. 17 Pittsburg State, Missouri Western and Central Missouri.
Returners rise up
One of the major factors behind Northwest Missouri State's 8-2 start is the increased offensive production they've gotten from four of their returning players.
Northwest didn't retain a single player from last year that averaged double-figures, but currently there are four scoring at that level.
Unsung junior reserve guard Meridee Scott is the team leader at 11.7 points per game, up close to nine points per game from the year before.
Sophomore guard Ashleigh Nelson is second with 11.4 points per while shooting over 45 percent from three. She averaged 5.5 points last year and was just a 23.5 percent shooter from three.
Sophomore center Maggie Marnin has raised her scoring average from 7.0 per game to 10.6 and her shooting percentage from 42.8 to 62.3 percent.
Sophomore forward Annie Mathews is up to 10.4 points per game from 4.6 and is shooting 52.8 percent.