Lions face road tests at Truman State

Hobie Brown

The Missouri Southern Lions look to find the win column as they travel to Kirksville to play the Truman State Bulldogs tomorrow.

Though the Lions (10-6, 3-5) won the first meeting between the two in December, 53-36, their strategy needs improving if they hope to have the same results.

“We need to work on our defense,” Head Coach Maryann Mitts said. “We have given up 80 points a game the past few games, which is uncharacteristic of us. We’ve held teams to an average of 60 points a game during my five years here.”

Defensive struggles can be detrimental against a team which boasts an outside threat in Candace McGee. McGee scored 23 points against Southwest Baptist, including a perfect 3-3 from the three-point line in the second half. They also feature an inside threat in Georgia Mueller, a second-year starter who ranked in the top 100 in the nation in blocked shots during her first campaign at Truman.

“Candace McGee is an excellent 3-point shooter,” Mitts said. “We need to limit her touches and force her to get the ball beyond the three-point line. We did a great job against Georgia Mueller in December. We need to limit her touches in the post.”

Handling these two individuals will take some work, especially if the Lions’ defensive woes come back to haunt them.

“Our offense is consistent, but our defense needs to improve,” Mitts said. “Once it does, you’ll see a great team on the floor.”

The Lions fell prey to the SBU Bearcats Monday night, dropping their fourth game in a row and their sixth since classes went on hiatus in December.

“We played better than we did in the other three losses (against Northwest Missouri, Emporia State and Fort Hays State),” Mitts said. “We lost the game, but we got our energy back, our teamwork was better, and we competed.”

Dana-Mae Robbs missed the Emporia State and Ft. Hays State contests with a broken hand, only to return in a big way against the Bearcats.

“Dana-Mae scored 23 points four days after having surgery on her hand,” Mitts said. “She has been cleared to play and will have her hand wrapped for the remainder of the season.”

The Lions received two new players before the Christmas break, which has helped to shore up some areas of concern for Coach Mitts.

“Fatai Hala’Api’Api and India Wood both transferred from Eastern Kentucky University,” she said. “Wood is still learning the system, and Hala’Api’Api is averaging 12 points a game since joining the team.”

Though both players have been a good addition to the team, sometimes adding players to a team mid-season can cause some issues.

“When you add players like this, sometimes you have to start over and rerun stuff the other players already know,” Mitts said. “It slows down the pace and we don’t get to run as many plays. Another issue is team chemistry because you have to redefine the roles of every team member.”

Earlier this week, the Lions fell 65-52 at home to the No. 3 ranked Washburn Lady Blues.

Robbs exploded for 10 points down the stretch, but Southern could get no closer than five points.

The loss represents the first five-game losing streak for Southern since the 2002-2003 campaign.

Robbs led all scorers with 18 points and Tynesha Pierce added 15 for the Lions. Washburn outshot Southern from the field, 42.6 percent to 39.2 percent. The Lions outrebounded the Lady Blues, but lost the turnover battle. Southern gave away the ball 22 times in the game, including 15 in the first half.

The Lions will remain on the road to play at Washburn and at Ft. Hays before returning home for a meeting with Emporia State Feb. 7.