PITTSBURG — The freezing rain scattered throughout the region didn’t slip up the No. 5 Pittsburg State women during their 78-69 win over Lindenwood Saturday afternoon at John Lance Arena.
The Gorilla women (16-1, 8-0 MIAA) never trailed in their second win of the week, taking advantage of 14 first-half turnovers by the Lions to build a 15-point lead by the intermission. Pitt State went ice cold from the field in the second half, with Lindenwood (6-9, 2-6 MIAA) finding life beyond the perimeter to cut the advantage to single digits in the early stages of the fourth. The lead got as close as three points before PSU closed the game on a 14-8 run over the last five minutes to hold on for the win.
“Today was just a survive day,” Pitt State head coach Lane Lord said. “We really struggled, obviously, when you shoot 20 percent in a half after shooting 54 percent in the first half, it’s a pretty frustrating game.”
It was a tale of two halves offensively for the Gorillas, who shot 53.3 percent (16-30) from the field and 41.7 percent (5-12) from 3-point range over the first 20 minutes. The second half was a struggle, with the Gorillas converting 22.2 percent (8-36) from the field and 11.8 percent (2-17) from a long range.
“Not every night is going to be your best shooting night, so we just kind of had to focus on our defense,” Pitt State point guard Haydn Herlocker said. “Even if the shots aren’t falling, if you get stops — if the game is 2-0 and they didn’t score, you still won … It just came down to they were making plays and we were struggling a little bit offensively, but I think we pulled through in the end when it mattered.”
Pitt State closed the game with four players finishing in double figures.
Mikaela Burgess led all scorers with 20 points on 6-of-19 shooting from the field. She added three rebounds, two assists and a steal in the win.
Madison Northcutt finished with a double-double, her third in four games, after scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Northcutt was 5-of-8 shooting from the field, and made 5-of-7 free throws in the win.
Herlocker finished with 13 points, six rebounds a team-high four assists and two steals for the Gorillas.
Brenlee McPherson scored 11, and added a pair of assists and rebounds.
The Lions shots 47.3 percent for the game, and had three players finish in double figures.
Lindsay Medlin was 4-of-8 from 3-point range on the way to a 16-point effort. She added five rebounds and three assists.
Jerricah Butler scored 13 points, while Gabby Walker finished with 11.
Despite the struggles from the field, Pitt State shot above the team average in free throws, making 23-of-32 for 71.9 percent.
PSU won the rebounding battle 78-69, and finished with 11 less turnovers, 23-14.
Lindenwood climbed back into the game early in the third quarter after Medlan drilled four 3-pointers to make the score 55-45 with less than four minutes to play in the period.
Pitt State was 4-for-19 from the field in the third quarter, but the lead never dipped below double-digits, as PSU took a 61-49 advantage into the final 10 minutes.
“I don’t think [Lindenwood] did anything differently [in the second half],” Lord said. “We were wide open in the first half and we were 5 for 12. Then, we had 17 wide open shots in the second half and we just didn’t knock them down. We live by it and we die by it sometimes, but at least we still got the win when weren’t shooting the three like we normally do.”
The Lions didn’t go away, cutting the lead to six early in the fourth off a pair of Charisse Williams’ scores on the break, part of an 8-0 run, to make the score 61-55 with 8:02 remaining.
Butler drilled a transition 3-pointer in the corner near the five-minute mark to get the Lions within one possession, 64-61.
PSU got a basket inside from Northcutt, and followed it up with a huge 3-ball from Burgess to stretch the advantage back to eight, 69-61, with 4:21 left.
Pitt State didn’t allow Lindenwood any closer than six points to the lead over the remaining four-plus of the contest, settling in on defense, while getting baskets from Burgess and Paige Lungwitz, who also had a pair of free throws, over the last minute of play to seal the win.
Pitt State travels to face heated-rival No. 2 Emporia State for a 5:30 p.m. tip on Jan. 18 at White Auditorium.
-- Lucas Davis is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @LDsportswriter.