A season-high four-game losing streak has prevented the Northwest Missouri State women's basketball team from moving up in the conference standings.
But because the teams directly above them and below them are also struggling, it hasn't caused Northwest to move down.
Heading into Saturday's 1:30 p.m. home clash with No. 6 Washburn, the Bearcats (11-11, 5-9) remain tied with Missouri Southern (11-11, 5-9) for ninth place and a half-game back of eighth place Missouri Western (13-9, 6-7).
Western has lost three straight and six of its last seven, keeping both the Bearcats and Southern in the race for eighth place and the first round MIAA Tournament home game that comes with it.
Northwest and Western play each other again Wednesday at Bearcat Arena in a game the Bearcats almost have to have in order to finish eighth. Western won the first meeting in St. Joseph and would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with a series sweep.
Southern already holds the head-to-head tiebreaker with Northwest, requiring the Bearcats to finish one game ahead in case of a two-way tie.
Eighth place is likely the highest Northwest can finish at this point with Pittsburg State (14-7, 8-5) three games ahead in seventh. However, the Bearcats could fall as far as 13th, putting them out of the MIAA Tournament altogether.
The Bearcats hold a half-game lead over Lincoln (9-12, 4-9) and are a game up on Southwest Baptist (9-13, 4-10). They lead 12th place Nebraska-Kearney by two games and play the Lopers again Feb. 27 on the road.
Upcoming opponent Washburn (18-3, 12-1) has already secured its place in the tournament and sits atop the conference by a half-game over No. 7 Central Missouri (20-2, 12-2).
The Lady Blues have won seven straight, and included in that streak, is a 64-53 victory over Northwest in Topeka, Kan. last Saturday. Washburn led by as many as 18 points in the second half and kept a double-digit lead over the last 15 minutes.
Northwest scored 25 points in the final 9:22, becoming the first and only team during Washburn's win streak to surpass 50. The Lady Blues give up a league-low 51.3 points per game.
The Bearcats have scored exactly 53 points in each of their last three losses, facing in that span the No. 1 and No. 3 scoring defenses in the MIAA.
Not since their 67-64 win over Northeastern State have the Bearcats eclipsed 60, dropping them to No. 7 in the league in scoring offense.
Northwest's two most reliable offensive threats of late have been sophomore posts Maggie Marnin and Annie Mathews. They combined to go 13-20 with 29 points in the first meeting with Washburn.
In the last three games, Monique Stevens is the only Northwest guard to score in double-figures. She had 12 points in Wednesday's 54-53 loss to Fort Hays State.
Page 2 of 2 - Washburn's attack is led by senior guard Laura Kinderknecht (15.3 ppg). She hit four three-pointers and scored 14 points against Northwest last time. Forward Tiara George averages 10.7 points per game off the bench.