Women’s basketball drops season opener

Jasmine Lovejoy picked up right where she left off last season as she led the Missouri Southern Lions Women’s basketball team (0-1) in scoring with 36 points, 15 rebounds, and two steals in the Tuesday night’s opening season loss to Arkansas-Fort Smith (3-0) by a score of 72-70.

“Jasmine’s performance was just slightly less than incredible,” said Lion’s Head Coach Maryann Mitts. “The way she shot from the field and the effort she gave on the boards was impressive. As a coach I enjoyed watching her perform.”

The Lions struggled early as Arkansas-Fort Smith went on a 17-4 run at the end of the first half to take a 34-22 lead.

AFSU increased their lead to 19 points with just over 10 minutes left to play in the game, but the Lions would not go down without a fight.

Southern cut the deficit to 66-58 with 2:28 left to play. After two free throws from Erin Rice and two field goals from Kelby Fritz and Lovejoy, the Lions were down just 70-64 with 21 seconds left to play.

A steal from Laritta Gipson¬† at midcourt led to an Eric Rice three pointer to bring Southern within three. A quick foul put AFSU’s Chelsea Sublett to the line where she put the game out of reach with 3.7 seconds left. Fritz would knock down a long three point shot, but the free throws proved to be too much.

“The effort in the last 5 min was quite impressive,” Mitts said of the comeback attempt. “We just needed another 10 seconds on the clock. I felt like we just needed one more possession to win us the ball game. There was a 10 minute lapse, five minutes the first half and five minutes the second where we didn’t play very good basketball. We made some mistakes that were self inflicting wounds, and when you go on the road you have to play near perfect basketball. There were just times when we didn’t do that, but there were a lot of positives to take from the game and I think our team will get better because of it.”

The Lions committed 20 turnovers in the season opener, which led to 36 AFSU points. Southern went 22-47 from the field including a 4-11 performance from beyond the arc.

Southern continues action Monday as they play their home opener against the preseason No.22 team in the country, Northeastern State University. NSU, a sweet 16 team in 2009, returns a core of players that Southern fell to 67-50 last season.  

“NSU provides some challenges by the fact they are one of the best teams in the country,” Mitts said. “They are going to be very patient on offense. They’re in no hurry to shoot the basketball and that will force us to play defense for about 25 seconds per possession. Controlling the tempo of that basketball game is going to be our biggest challenge.”

Not only will the Lions have to make the most out of every possession, but Southern will need to stop the Riverhawks on the defensive side of the ball as well. The Lions showed they can do so in the opener against AFSU.

“Our half court defense was outstanding,” Mitts explained. “We gave up 72 pts but very few of those were in their half court offense. We forced three shot clock violations; we didn’t force three shot clock violations all year (last season).”