After ending a three-game losing streak, Northwest Missouri State's women's basketball team begins its second three-game road stretch of the month Saturday at 1:30 p.m. against Central Oklahoma at Hamilton Fieldhouse in Edmond, Okla.
The Bearcats (9-5, 3-3) went 0-3 in their last set of road games, but the three losses were to teams with a collective 33-11 record.
This three-game stretch, at least for the first two legs, isn't nearly as daunting.
Central Oklahoma (8-7, 1-6) and Tuesday night's opponent Southwest Baptist (6-9, 1-6) are each tied for last place in the MIAA with Nebraska-Kearney, a team Northwest has already beaten by 11 points.
The Bearcats are 3-0 against teams below them in the MIAA standings, but all three wins were at home.
They've yet to win a road game in the MIAA and these are perhaps their best opportunities for a while to do that.
"It's a huge opportunity for us," said Northwest Missouri State women's coach Mark Kellogg. "We feel like we have to play well to beat everybody. That's not just coach speak. On the road, that's particularly true. We should be comfortable on the road now than we were before."
Tied for eighth place in the MIAA, Northwest narrowly lost its last road game to Missouri Western 68-66 and beat Lincoln 77-60 Wednesday night at home with a dominant second half performance.
The Bearcats scored 50 second half points, shot better than 70 percent from the field and permitted only 14 points in the first 15 minutes.
Their final point total and 56.9 shooting percentage were both season-high's in league play.
Northwest had four in double-figures led by junior guard Meridee Scott and freshman Tember Schechinger each with 15 points.
"We had balanced scoring, we were playing unselfish basketball," said Kellogg. "We started creating some offense with our defense which we hadn't done in a while. That's pretty good to see. When we're at our best, we go on quick 9-0 or 10-2 runs and make it 14 or 15 points pretty quick."
Central Oklahoma suffered a 54-53 loss to Northeastern State Wednesday night at home. It was the Bronchos sixth MIAA loss in a row since a 70-62 road win over No. 24 Pittsburg State in the MIAA opener and fifth during that stretch by four points or less.
UCO has also lost at home to Missouri Western by two and to Wasburn by four.
"They're better than their record is," said Kellogg. "They are more than capable. They've been riddled a little bit by the injury bug. I think they've been dealing with that a little bit."
Central Oklahoma is the eighth-highest scoring team in the MIAA and gives up the fourth-most points.
Page 2 of 2 - Like Northwest, the Bronchos biggest deficiency is rebounding.
They rank dead-last in the MIAA in rebounding margin, one spot below Northwest who gave up 21 offensive rebounds to Lincoln.
"They're not a great rebounding team either and that's an area we need to improve," said Kellogg. "We need to hold our own on the boards and not give them extra opportunities, take care of the ball. I just don't know what's going to happen. It all goes into making shots."
Central Oklahoma's leading scorer is senior forward Alyssa Fuxa with 12.7 points per game. Junior guard
Jill Bryan is second with 10.4 points per game and leads the team in three-point makes with 22.
Seven other Bronchos average between five and nine points per contest.
"They've got some decent post players and they guard teams on the perimeter," said Kellogg.
This is the first meeting between the Bearcats and Bronchos since the 2011 South Central Regional Final in Tahlequah, Okla.
Northwest won that game 82-70 to advance to its first Elite Eight in school history.
Fuxa is the only starter from either team that remains.