Annie Mathews' rugged back-to-the-basket game usually hasn't lent itself to frequent free throw line opportunities this year.
In Wednesday's 69-58 win over Missouri Western, it did, and the 5-10 sophomore forward made her free throws with surprising regularity.
Just a 59.6 percent free throw shooter coming into play, Mathews went 11-12 at the line, accounting for over half of her career-best 21 point total.
She also had 12 rebounds to record her seventh double-double of the year.
"My percentage this year is kind of low," said Mathews who averages 10.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. "I think I just stepped up tonight and put them in. I've been working on it. I knew it was something I had to work on based on how I've been shooting earlier in the season. I think I've improved lately."
Mathews is now 15-16 on free throws over the last two games, raising her season average to 66.1 percent. Her 12 free throw attempts Wednesday represent more than one-fifth of her season total. As a team, the Bearcats went 28-32 from the foul line against Western.
That's the most free throw attempts and the most free throw makes by the Bearcats all season. They are shooting 72.5 percent from the line, while their opponents are right at 70 percent.
Northwest Missouri State head coach Ben McCollum continued to tinker with his starting lineup and bench rotation in Wednesday's 59-52 win over Missouri Western.
After coming off the bench the game before, senior two-guard DeAngelo Hailey returned to his role as starter, taking the place of point guard Matt Wallace.
It was Hailey's 15th start of the year in 24 games.
The Bearcats (17-8, 10-6) went with a lineup of Hailey, Bryston Williams, Tyler Funk, Alex Sullivan and Dillon Starzl. All five played at least 25 minutes, with Sullivan going the full 40.
Northwest used only three reserves in the game, in part, because of an injury to freshman guard Conner Crooker that kept him out of action.
Wallace played 27 minutes off the bench, while the two others—forwards Kyle Schlake and Grant Cozad—combined for just 13 in a perimeter-oriented game dictated by Western's zone.
Schlake has now played 15 minutes or less in each of the three games since Starzl's return.
Outside looking in
Neither the Northwest Missouri State men, nor the women appeared in the top 10 of the first Central Region rankings that came out Wednesday.
With only the top eight teams in each region qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, this likely means both will have to win the MIAA Tournament in order to get there.
On the men's side, the only two MIAA teams in the top 10 are No. 6 Central Missouri and No. 8 Fort Hays State.
Page 2 of 2 - Four Northern Sun schools occupy the top four spots led by No. 1 Winona State. No. 5 Harding and No. 7 Arkansas Tech represent the GAC.
Southwest Minnesota and Upper Iowa are the final two teams, both of which Northwest beat earlier this year.
In the women's rankings, MIAA leader Washburn and second place Central Missouri are 1-2. Truman State is fifth, while Northeastern State and Fort Hays are ninth and 10th.
The Northern Sun has three teams and the GAC has two among the top 10.
Northwest Missouri State's indoor track season culminates this weekend at the MIAA Indoor Championships in Warrensburg.
The three day-event begins today with the pentathlon/heptathlon and runs through Sunday.
Northwest's top-ranked competitors are Eli Smith, Jordan Esry and the women's 4 x 400M relay team.
Smith ranks 39th nationally and third in the MIAA in the 400M dash with a time of 48.86. Esry owns the MIAA's second-fastest time in the 3000M run (10:18.06) and the third-fastest in the 5000M run.
The 4 x 400M women's relay sits 23rd nationally and and third in the league with a time of 3:51.19.
Northwest's women finished ninth out of nine teams at the indoor championships last year and the men were seventh.
Central Missouri is the reigning men's champion and Lincoln was last year's women's champion.
Spring teams in action
As of Thursday, Northwest's baseball, softball and tennis team were scheduled to compete this weekend despite most of the region being covered in snow.
The Bearcat baseball team hosts a three-game set with Lindenwood that begins with an afternoon doubleheader Saturday.
Northwest (1-7, 1-4) has lost four straight and dropped both games of a neutral-site doubleheader with Nebraska-Kearney Tuesday in Topeka, Kan.
Northwest softball will play five games at the NSIC/MIAA Crossover in Rochester, Minn., Friday and Saturday. The Bearcats (7-0) are off to the best start in the program's 38-year existence.
Northwest's men's and women's tennis teams are playing three non-conference matches in Springfield, the first of which was Thursday against Harding.
The Bearcat men won their season opener over Alabama-Huntsville 6-3, and the women lost to Northeastern State 7-2.