Watching two huge leads evaporate like the remaining snow outside, Northeastern A&M’s Lady Norse held on for a 77-70 victory Thursday night over Murray State College in the NEO Fieldhouse.
With the victory coach Jim Rowland’s Lady Norse are 10-6 on the season and 4-2 in the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference. The loss dropped the Lady Aggies to 13-5 on the season and 4-2 in the conference.
The Lady Norse conclude a brief homestand Monday by hosting the Eastern State College Lady Mountaineers in a 6 p.m. OCAC contest.
“Before the game I told the girls that we had been playing well on the road and we needed to show our hometown fans how much we had improved,” Rowland said. “We had a 15-point lead in the first half and a 19-point lead in the second and then our bench comes in and we don’t get anything from them.
“We shouldn’t have had a drop off whatsoever, but we started rushing shots and let Murray climb back in it,” Rowland said. “I’ll take the win, but we’ve got to play a lot better heading into these conference games.”
During the first five minutes of the opening half, the Lady Aggies grab a 7-6 lead on two points each by Ayanna Jackson, Jalissa Council and Kacy Morrison, along with a solo free throw by Jessica Lankston.
Outscoring Murray State 17-2 over the next three minutes the Lady Norse pulled away to a 23-9 cushion at the 12:26 juncture.
Freshman guard Ashton Pittman scored 10 straight points, along with a 3-pointer by Kashei Hopkins and layups by Jelena Cerina and Ashley McKeel, to fuel the NEO run.
Six straight points by Devin Robbins and regular field goals by Morrison and Council created a 27-19 deficit for the Lady Aggies with 7:21 left in the first half.
Two 3-pointers by Hopkins and two free throws by Ashley Jordan, along with one by Cerina, boosted the Lady Norse to a 36-21 margin with 3:56 until intermission.
Council scored eight consecutive points inside the paint and Lankston added two free throws as Murray State trailed by a 39-31 spread at halftime.
“When we let them climb back into it just before the half, it gave them some confidence,” Rowland said. “Our confidence came back in the first five minutes of the second half, but then we started making mistakes and here they came again.”
Pittman scored 12 points while Shea Bowden, Hopkins, Kayla Gardner, Cerina, Roni Jefferson and Brittany Woodard each contributed two points as the Lady Norse constructed a seemingly insurmountable 63-54 lead with 6:29 remaining in the game.
“We just didn’t do a good job of guarding Morrison or Council,” Rowland said. “The more shots they made, the more confidence they got as a team and the fought and clawed their way back into the game.”
Four straight points by Megan Moore started a 16-0 run by the Lady Aggies that produced a 63-60 deficit at the 5:40 juncture. Morrison poured gasoline on the fire with nine straight points while Robbins added a 3-pointer to rally Murray State.
Clinging to a 67-63 lead in the final four minutes, the Lady Norse received four straight points by Pittman along with a layup by McKeel and two free throws by Hopkins and one by Jordan to hold the Lady Aggies at bay.
With 24 total points, Pittman led the Lady Norse in scoring while Hopkins added 18 and Cerina 11.
The Lady Norse connected on 26 of 57, including 9 of 21 from 3-point range, for 46 per cent from the field and 16 of 24 for 67 per cent at the free throw line.
Morrison tallied 27 points to lead all scorers while Council contributed 16 points.
Murray State sank 24 of 57, including 4 of 18 from the 3-point area, for 42 per cent from the field and 18 of 25 for 72 per cent at the free throw line.
Lankston grabbed eight rebounds to give the Lady Aggies a slender 36-35 edge on the boards. Jordan led the Lady Norse with 10 rebounds.
“Our defensive intensity just isn't here right now,” Rowland said. “I can't pinpoint the problem, but we're just not producing enough intensity.
“Our offense is starting to click a little bit, but we've got to get back the mind set we had in the first half of the season,” Rowland said. “Our defense carried us through some tough games and we need to go back to that style of aggressiveness on defense.”
Murray State College (13-5, 4-2)
Morrison 10 5-5 27, Council 6 4-4 16, Jackson 3 1-2 8, Robbins 2 1-2 6, Moore 1 1-2 4, Lankston 0 2-3 3, Timmerman 1 0-0 2, Baca 0 2-2 2, Blakemore 1 0-0 2, Woods 0 0-0 0, Drennan 0 0-0 0, Babinec 0 0-0 0. Totals 24 18-25 70.
Northeastern A&M (10-6, 4-2)
Pittman 8 3-4 24, Hopkins 6 2-2 18, Cerina 5 1-2 11, McKeel 4 0-0 8, Jefferson 0 4-4 4, Gardner 1 2-4 4, Woodard 1 1-2 3, Jordan 0 3-6 3, Bowden 1 0-0 2, Manuatu 0 0-0 0, Mathews 0 0-0 0. Totals 26-57 16-24 77.
Halftime — NEO 39, MSC 31. 3-point goals — MSC 4-18 (Morrison 2-5, Robbins 1-3, Jackson 1-6, Moore 0-1, Woods 0-1, Lankston 0-2), NEO 9-21 (Pittman 5-6, Hopkins 4-5, Manuatu 0-1, Woodard 0-5). Rebounds — MSC 36 (Lankston 8), NEO 35 (Jordan 10). Assists — MSC 9 (Lankston 6), NEO 11 (Hopkins 3). Steals — MSC 7 (Lankston 3), NEO 14 (Gardner 3). Blocked shots — MSC 3 (Council 3), NEO 5 (Cerina 2, Woodard 2). Turnovers — MSC 21, NEO 21. Total fouls — MSC 20, NEO 20. Fouled out — Cerina. Technical fouls — none.