PITTSBURG — A cold first quarter from the field proved to be just a speed bump for No. 7 Pittsburg State women’s basketball in its 67-52 win over Northwest Missouri State Thursday at John Lance Arena.
Pitt State (22-3, 14-2 MIAA) trailed 11-5 after starting the game 1 for 12 from the field, but led the Bearcats 14-13 by the end of the first quarter. The Gorillas caught fire in the second period to push the lead over NWMS (8-15, 3-13 MIAA) to double digits, keeping Northwest Missouri at bay in the second half.
“Tonight as kind of a grind-it-out night,” Pitt State head coach Lane Lord said. “We really struggled in the first quarter, but all in all, defensively, we were great pretty much all game. The offense struggled at home, which is mind boggling, but you have to Northwest a lot of credit for that. Defense is what really got the game won for us, and I am really proud of our team for that.”
Pitt State was 3-of-14 shooting in the first period and finished the game at 37 percent, 20-54.
Madison Northcutt finished with her second consecutive double-double to lead the Gorilla women to their fifth straight win, pulling down a game-high 15 rebounds to go along with 15 points.
“She is just a beast,” Lord said. “She is fun to watch, a tenacious rebounder and just gives a great effort every night.”
Pitt State had a trio of scorers finish in double figures, with Mikaela Burgess’ 19 points coming in as a team high. She added four assists and a pair of rebounds.
Paige Lungwitz scored 14 points, grabbed three rebounds and had three assists in the win.
Northwest Missouri shot 37 percent from the field as a team, making 19-of-51 attempts.
Tanya Meyer led the Bearcats in scoring with 21 points on 9-of-23 shooting. Her eight rebounds left her two boards shy of a double-double.
Jasmin Howe scored 11, while Arbie Benson finished with eight points, five assists and four rebounds in the loss.
Pitt State held the advantage in rebounds, 37-27, and free-throw shooting, making 21-of-23 shots from the stripe as a team to NWMS’ 9-of-10 shooting.
After scoring the game’s first five points, Pitt State went ice cold from the field offensively, allowing the Bearcats to score 11 unanswered to gain the early advantage.
Starting the game 1 for 12 from the field as a team, Burgess picked up the Gorillas as she closed out the first with a 3-pointer and scored of the drive to put Pitt State in front 14-13.
Northwest Missouri State took a brief lead, 16-14, off a make from the perimeter by Mallory McAndrews out of the break, but Pitt State’s offense regained life, surging out to a 14-2 run to take a 10-point lead, 28-18, with 5:52 left in the first half.
“They rotate really well on the post, and we weren’t hitting open shots,” Lungwitz said. “We didn’t really have our energy up. Once we were able to drive the and get it inside, that helped us out.”
Burgess and Lungwitz kicked off the run with back-to-back 3-balls, and Northcutt added a score inside, which was followed by a Lungwitz drive to the left side to give PSU a 24-16 advantage.
After Meyer broke the drought for the Bearcat women with a drive for a basket, Northcutt and Brenlee McPherson found room inside for a pair of make to give PSU its first double-digit lead of the contest.
NWMS cut the lead to six by the half, 34-28, on a long 2-pointer in the corner at the end of the shot clock by Macy Williams with 10 seconds to play.
The Gorillas pushed the lead back to 10 midway through the third on an Athena Alvarado score in transition off the assist by Haydn Herlocker.
Pitt State closed out the third with on a 7-2 run to push the lead to 15, 49-34.
A 3-pointer from Burgess and an offensive rebound for a putback by Northcutt highlighted the closing minutes of the third for the Gorilla women.
Pitt State’s lead dipped below the double-digit margin with three minutes to play after a pair of makes from the stripe by Alexa Schaaf to make the score 59-51, highlighting seven unanswered by the Bearcats.
PSU responded and sealed the win with the next eight points, including five team free throws and a 3-ball in the corner from Burgess in transition, to push the lead to 67-52 with less than a minute to play.
“Three times this year I have seen something I have never seen,” Lord said. “One — UCO shoots a perfect 100 percent in a quarter. Two — we missed 21 straight threes against Central Missouri, and three — I just saw five charges in one quarter. I have never seen it before in my life, 22 years of coaching.”
The No. 7 Gorillas host Missouri Western at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at John Lance Arena.
-- 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.