MIAMI — Overcoming a six-point deficit after the first quarter, the No. 17 ranked Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Lady Norse opened defense of their Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference crown Tuesday, Nov. 28, with a 66-60 win over Connors State College in the NEO Field House.
With the victory, the Lady Norse (7-3 and 1-0) extended their current home court-winning streak to 39 games. The last time the Lady Norse lost before a hometown crowd was a 73-72 decision in the 2014 regular season finale against Seminole State.
NEO begins a four-game road trip prior to the Christmas break at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Piper Foster Field House at Tonkawa.
The Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa Lady Mavericks (3-4) traveled to Altus Tuesday night to begin conference play against Western State College.
“We only have a one-day turn around before we have to go play a typical Greg Krause-coached team,” Lady Norse head coach Jim Rowland said. “It’s also a very tough place to play.
“I never know what to expect from the Lady Mavericks,” Rowland said. “They will throw a lot of different things at you and they really like to shoot the 3-ball.
“We have to be zoned in because they may man us, may zone us on defense,” Rowland said. “Then, we have to be ready to defend on the other end because they have a freshman guard — 5-7 Tahanee Bennell — that shoots 46 percent from 3-point range.
“They also have sophomore Violet Reynolds (5-11) that can jump and really is aggressive on the boards at both ends of the floor,” Rowland said. “We have to focus and contain her.”
Against the Connors State Cowgirls (0-1 and 5-5), the Lady Norse trailed 22-16 after the first 10 minutes.
The Cowgirls built a 20-7 cushion at the 3:50 juncture and turned six NEO turnovers into nine points to fuel their lead.
During the second quarter, the Lady Norse defense limited the Cowgirls to eight points as NEO rallied for a 33-30 halftime lead.
Freshman center Bethy Mununga scored nine of her game-high 17 points to ignite the comeback.
Mikayla Schulanberger and Mariam Gnanou combined for seven points apiece, along with five points by Meagan Jackson and a 3-pointer from Amare Weary off the bench.
“We went into the locker room at halftime and made a few adjustments,” Rowland said. “Then, we came out in the third quarter and I thought we had them on the ropes.
“But, Coach (Jamie) Fisher called a time out trailing by 14 points (46-32) with 4:50 remaining,” Rowland said. “After that, I thought we just melted and took a few bad shots and turned the ball over a few more times.”
NEO survived the Connors rally and carried a 50-44 margin into the fourth quarter.
“I told the girls at the break for the fourth quarter to quit taking bad shots and stop turning the ball over,” Rowland said. “I told them that we can’t allow them to get back in the game.”
The two rivals battled to a 16-16 draw in the final 10 minutes.
“I credit Connors,” Rowland said. “They fought hard the entire 40 minutes and they never laid down and tried to stay in the game.
“We just did a really bad job valuing the possessions that we had after that 14-point lead,” Rowland said. “I don’t like making excuses, but I told them that we are getting better, but they have got to learn to take care of the basketball.
“You’ve got to hit those chippy shots, you’ve got to make wide open layups and you’ve got to make them pay for not defending,” Rowland said. “We just didn’t go very deep with only seven players getting the bulk of the action.”
Mununga scored 17 points to pace the Lady Norse while Jackson contributed 15, Gnanou 13, Larranaga 10, Schulanberger eight and Weary three.
NEO connected on 25 of 52, including 5 of 13 from 3-point range, for 48 percent from the field. The Lady Norse sank 11 of 22 for 50 percent at the free throw line.
Along with Mikiah McDonald’s game-high 19 points, the Cowgirls received 14 from Reed and 10 from DeAuja Thompson.
After shooting 47 percent (8 of 17) from the field in the first quarter, Connors managed only 21 of 62, including 6 of 23 from the 3-point area, for 34 percent the entire game. The Cowgirls hit 12 of 17 for 71 percent from the free throw line.