Jan. 29—Rogers State University basketball teams visited Missouri Southern on Saturday and left with two losses.
The Hillcats hardly led during any portion of the two games, either.
The MSSU women started the day with a back-and-forth battle with RSU until it grabbed a 5-4 lead on a layup from Reese Webb and never looked back, earning a 76-54 win.
The men jumped out to a 9-3 advantage, but that's when the Hillcats' Rodney Battle drilled a tough stepback from just inside the 3-point line to make it 9-5. Battle fell down after the shot and slapped the floor wanting a foul.
When Battle stood up he shouted at the nearest ref and threw his hands up as if to ask where the foul was. The referee blew his whistle and gave the 6-foot-1 senior a technical foul.
The Lions only built on the hot start from there to claim a 75-53 win.
The Lions (15-4, 11-2 MIAA) led for all but about a minute during the early portions of the game. The 3-pointers were falling early as Kaitlin Hunnicutt, Kryslyn Jones and Mira Khan all made multiple outside shots.
People have seen the trey from Hunnicutt and Jones, but Khan doesn't make as many from beyond the arc.
Khan, a 6-foot-1 forward/center, made both of her 3-pointers in the second quarter. The first one made it 32-12 in favor of Southern, and the next made it a 42-19 game.
"Her whole career she's been a pretty good shooter from the 3-point line," MSSU head coach Ronnie Ressel said. "Sometimes she doesn't get the looks. But today she did a great job of getting her feet set. Her shot is from the top of the key. Usually when she's at the top of the key, she's going to knock that one down."
This is Khan's third game of the year with a 3-pointer. She made 1 of 2 attempts at Fort Hays State on Jan. 11 and was 2 for 3 at Emporia State on Jan. 21. She is now 5 for 12 (42%) from outside for the season.
Behind eight triples from that trio, the Lions tallied 50 points in the first half — something that they hadn't accomplished in an MIAA conference game since Dec. 18, 2021, against Lincoln.
Ressel talked about what it takes to be able to get that type of production in one half of basketball.
"One, you have to guard. You have to get stops where you get in transition," he said. "When you get in transition with the defense not set, your ball movement is much better, you execute, you get more open looks compared to going against a set defense.
"And then we knocked shots down. ... It's a lot of fun to watch when those kids are making shots and getting after it defensively."
MSSU led 50-24 and maintained its large advantage for the entire second half. The Hillcats did reduce the deficit to 18 on a 3-point basket by Alayzha Knapp late in the third quarter to make it 59-41.
Ryan Franklin scored on the next possession to make it 61-41, and that was the score at the end of the third.
The margin was at 18 again when RSU's Cayden Mershon hit a jump shot in the fourth quarter to make it 70-52, but it was too little too late by then for any comeback.
Jones led Southern with 19 points, Hunnicutt added 15 on five triples, and Khan finished with 10. Webb, Franklin and Brandi Hudson all scored 8.
RSU (8-11, 3-10 MIAA) was led by Knapp with 21 points, while Alyza Aikins added 14.
Hunnicutt talked after the game about the 50-point first half and what it does for her own confidence to make five 3-pointers in a game.
"We have a lot of confidence, so when we play with confidence and we're making shots, we pour into each other and it's a lot of fun," Hunnicutt said. "It gives me a lot of confidence to not only shoot the ball but to get open looks for my teammates too. Because I feel like when I hit a few shots, they're going to come out and guard me tighter and I can get it inside to our bigs and our other guards."
The Lions (8-11, 6-7 MIAA) held the Hillcats to an abysmal 37.5% shooting and just 15.8% from outside the 3-point line.
It seemed RSU (11-8, 8-5 MIAA) struggled to find a basket almost the entire game. Outside of some tough stepback jumpers by Battle, the team did not shoot well.
"We knew we had to come out and get off to a hot start," MSSU head coach Sam McMahon said. "Especially to establish ourselves on the defensive end. We did that today and to hold them to 37% shooting for the game was a big-time effort."
It was the opposite for Southern, which shot 55.6% for the entire game and 31.6% from outside.
"I think we were just all locked in as a team today," MSSU's Darius Dawson said. "I think we had something to prove. Since last game, we went out the wrong way. Today we wanted to show what we really could do to you guys and for ourselves as well."
The offense was led by the interior work of Darius Dawson and Martin Macenis. Both were able to catch the ball in areas they were comfortable, put their back to the basket and go to work scoring at will most of the game. The duo shot a combined 19 for 27, and all but one of those shots was inside the 3-point line.
"That's what we've talked about. Attacking the paint. Those guys are hard to handle down there," McMahon said. "In the post, on the block and in the midpost. And they make the good reads. When you're not doubling them, they can score it."
Dawson totaled 25 points and made one 3-pointer and 2 of 3 free shots. Dawson pulled down six rebounds. Macenis finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
"Just score the rock. Coach always tells us go in there and finish strong," Macenis said. "We knew they were bad defensively. They average one block a game."
"For me, it's just play confident and do what I know I can do," Dawson added.
Vinson Sigmon Jr. scored 14 points and was showcasing his floater in the lane in this game.
Battle led RSU with 15 points and Isaac Johnson contributed 10 more.
MSSU was up 17-7 as a timeout was taken with 14:14 left in the first half. Four minutes later, the score was already 24-10. RSU made a run after that scoring the next 7 points to make it 24-17. But the Lions outscored the Hillcats 15-7 for the remainder of the half to take a 39-24 lead into the break.
Dawson slammed home a couple dunks in the second half as MSSU put the finishing touches on the dominating win. The first — and more powerful — dunk was a one-handed flush to make it 61-37.
Macenis made an unconventional pass out to Parker Long beyond the 3-point line in the second half. The 6-foot-5 guard was attacking the basket and got pushed under the goal. As he was heading out of bounds he picked the ball up and threw it over his head almost directly behind him to Long on the wing area between the right wing and top of the key.
Long caught the pass and drilled the three for what might be the fanciest assist of the year for MSSU.
Both teams head to Wichita, Kansas, to face Newman University next. The Jets' men's team has struggled to a 6-12 record and is just 3-10 in conference play so far this year. The women's team has had it even worse at 2-17 overall and 1-12 in the MIAA.
Coach McMahon and his players Dawson and Macenis talked about the importance of finding some consistency with a little more than a month left of the regular season.
"I think we just have to stay focused, keep going at it in the gym, just everyday things, and it will just come to us," Macenis said.
"We're going to start something special. Hey, I'm looking to go on a run," Dawson added.
"Having elite energy every day. Getting better every day in practice," McMahon said of his team's key to being consistent. "We had two really good practices leading up to this, so I knew we were going to give Rogers (State) a run for their money.
"But we can't let a loss be (what) springboards us to a win. We have to let a win do that. Now this could springboard us to the Newman game. And that can springboard us to the UCO (Central Oklahoma) game."
McMahon added that the springboard has to happen "now."