To some degree, No. 9 Washburn and Northwest Missouri State each got what they wanted out of Saturday night's game at Lee Arena.
At least in Northwest's case, a 64-53 road loss to the conference's first-place team was a result they can live with at this stage.
While dropping their third straight game and falling to 1-7 on the road in league play, the Bearcats (11-10, 5-8) put forth another competitive effort against high-quality opposition, never letting a game that teetered on the edge of a blowout in the second half fully reach that point.
They also became the first team in six games to score more than 50 points on the Lady Blues, although it took a 25-point final 9:22 to get there.
Going into Saturday's rematch with the Lady Blues (17-3, 11-1) at home, the Bearcats know they can at least play with them.
"You take anything you can from it," said Northwest Missouri State head coach Mark Kellogg. "Any four of five-minute stretch that's pretty good for us is a momentum-builder. We're trying to build it the right way. Our kids played hard all the way through, so we'll credit them for that and we'll watch the film and get better."
Northwest flashed upset potential in the early stages of the game, scoring the first five points and seven of the first nine.
But after the quick start, the Bearcats produced only 10 points in the final 16:03 of the half against Washburn's staunch, assignment-sound man-to-man defense.
After taking their last lead of 13-12 with 11:43 left, the Bearcats went scoreless for the next 8:30 and made just one more field goal in the half.
"That's been our story," said Kellogg of the offensive struggles. "We have all these five, six minute droughts where we can't score. We scored seven, eight, nine early in the half and just did not score. We tried different lineups, tried to sub a little quicker, keep them fresh. We just couldn't get any good looks. I thought their length and their defense bothered us early until we kind of figured out to how play against some of their length."
Washburn went on a 13-0 run while Northwest was stuck on 13, building a double-digit lead of 25-13 they maintained nearly the rest of the game.
The Bearcats had chances to get it under double-digits at the half, but turned it over on their last two possessions.
They were the 14th and 15th turnovers of a first half in which Northwest shot just 6-18.
"That's the best defensive team we've seen and they do a great job," said Kellogg. "We didn't execute well enough at times. I wanted us to come out and be free-flowing. I thought we turned down a lot of good looks in the first half."
Northwest more than doubled its 17-point first half total in the second half and shot 63.6 percent, but never put together a run that got them back in the game.
The Bearcats came as close as eight early in the half on a three by sophomore guard Ashleigh Nelson, but Washburn scored the next six to lead 40-26.
A three-point play by Casyn Buchman on a putback made it 43-28 with 10:06 left.
After an empty trip to the line by Northwest, consecutive three's by Laura Kinderknecht and Dana Elliott extended Washburn's lead from 12 to 18 in less than a minute.
"We couldn't hit the big shot or the big free throws," said Kellogg. "We had a little bit of a run, maybe it was just 5-0 and then it was an open three that we miss and then its miss a front end of a one-and-one. You can't do that when you're down. When you're fighting back from a fairly big deficit, you got to be perfect. You got to make every free throw. You got to make every shot. We didn't. Then we come down and give up one or they'd get us on an offensive rebound and a putback. I thought our first possession defense was okay. It was just offensive rebounds and turnovers."
In full desperation-mode, the Bearcats scored on nine of their next 12 possessions, but Washburn answered enough to maintain a lead of at least 10 points.
Northwest didn't get it to 10 until a bank three from freshman Tember Schechinger with 53 seconds left.
Washburn added a free throw that made the second half scoring dead even at 36.
"I think we just got after it," said Northwest Missouri State sophomore center Maggie Marnin. "Coach was talking about sense of urgency. That's something we need to put into play more often. That's really what got us going, knowing we need to score."
Thanks to its last-gasp offensive outburst, Northwest shot 50 percent for the game and went 6-15 from three, but turned it over 24 times and gave up 10 offensive rebounds.
This led to 12 extra possessions for the Lady Blues who shot 46.9 percent on nine more attempts.
Washburn finished with a 23-7 edge in points off turnovers and 12-2 in second chance points.
"We turned it over way too many times and gave up some key offensive rebounds in the second half," said Kellogg. "That was probably the difference in the game. We have to work really hard to be really good right now. We have to be really close to perfect and other teams can get away with a few things that we just can't."
Northwest's blossoming sophomore post duo of Maggie Marnin and Annie Mathews combined to make 13 of the team's 20 field goals.
Marnin, who was 8-12, finished with a game-high 17 points and Mathews went 5-7 with 12 points.
The only other Bearcat to make more than two field goals was Nelson. She had nine points but turned it over a team-high eight times.
Kinderknecht went 4-8 from three and led the Lady Blues with 14 points. Forward Tiara George came off the bench to score 12 points inside Northwest's zone.
Washburn, which has won six straight, visits Bearcat Arena Saturday.
Northwest's next game is Wednesday night at home versus Fort Hays State, a team they lost to 65-53 last week.
The Bearcats don't play on the road again until Feb. 27 at Nebraska-Kearney.
By Joey Falkoff email@example.com
The Maryville Daily Forum - Maryville, MO
By Joey Falkoff firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated Feb. 11, 2013 @ 12:53 am
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