On their recent two-game homestand, Northwest Missouri State's women obtained their first win over an upper-echelon MIAA team and lost to another one less than 48 hours later.
This week's slate of games offers Northwest two more quality win opportunities, although both are on the road where the Bearcats are just 1-5 in league play.
The Bearcats take on Fort Hays State tonight at 5:30 p.m. at Gross Memorial Coliseum and visit No. 9 Washburn Saturday in Topeka, Kan. at 5 p.m.
Ninth-place Northwest (11-8, 5-6) and sixth-place Fort Hays State (14-5, 6-5) are separated by just one game in the standings. The two teams will play again a week later at Bearcat Arena.
"We're still looking for a marquee road win," said Northwest Missouri State head coach Mark Kellogg. "We need to figure out how to do that. We're in a battle for a home playoff game. We're getting down to the end. We want to get a little momentum going at the end of the year. All those reasons together, let's see if we can go on the road and get one."
Northwest lost its most recent outing to Emporia State 72-58 Saturday, a game it led by one at the half.
The Bearcats were outscored 38-23 in the second half, shooting just 6-22 (.273) and 0-10 from three.
The Bearcats had shot 50 percent or better in their previous three halves, including both in a 67-64 win over Northeastern State Thursday night. On the year, they are shooting 44.9 percent—second-best in the MIAA.
"Looking back on it, we lost our focus and our energy," said Kellogg. "We were down four with 9:30 left, and on your home floor, you want to be able to close it out. It's disappointing we didn't defend well enough and our energy just dropped off."
The Tigers, who swept Northwest last year, are in the midst of a four-game homestand against bottom-half MIAA competition. Fort Hays has taken care of business so far, beating Central Oklahoma 84-78 and Missouri Southern 62-55.
The Tigers have lost at home only once all year and that was to Washburn Jan. 10 by three points. Once ranked as high as No. 10 in the nation, Fort Hays has won three of its last four games after a 1-4 stretch that dropped the Tigers outside the top 25.
The Tigers are the MIAA's third-highest scoring team (70.7 ppg) and give up the third-fewest amount of points (53.5), giving them the best scoring margin in the MIAA.
Fort Hays averages over 70 points per game despite ranking last in the MIAA in three-point percentage (.299). The Tigers are strong on the boards, ranking third in rebounding margin, and have the best turnover margin in the MIAA.
Page 2 of 2 - They also lead the league in block shots and are third in steals.
An inside-oriented team, the Tigers have one of the best scoring front courts in the league with 6-4 sophomore Kate Lehman and 6-1 junior Katelyn Edwards.
Lehman is fourth in the MIAA in scoring with 15.4 ppg and leads the MIAA in blocked shots with 4.2 bpg.
She's also Fort Hays State's leading rebounder (8.4 rpg).
Edwards is scoring 13.2 points per game and pulling down 7.9 rebounds per game.
They are the team's only two double-figure scorers.
Senior guard Melissa Nelson is their top backcourt producer with 8.3 points per game. Her and Bearcat killer Traci Keyser share the team lead with 19 three's, but both are shooting under 30 percent.
"I think some of their kids are better shooters than the percentages indicate," said Kellogg. "We still have to defend correctly to keep the percentages down. What we can't do is let the big kids go off and give up three's."
Northwest has a nice post duo of its own formed by sophomores Annie Mathews and Maggie Marnin. Both made six field goals in the loss to Emporia State and are hitting over 52 percent of their shots on the year.
The 6-3 Marnin and sophomore guard Ashleigh Nelson share the team lead in scoring with 11.3 points per game. Mathews is third with 9.6 and leads the Bearcats in rebounding with 7.7 per game.
"They have two pretty good posts, but we feel like we can at least hold our own," said Kellogg.