For Truman State first-year women’s basketball coach Michael Smith, this year has been anything but what was expected.

For Truman State first-year women’s basketball coach Michael Smith, this year has been anything but what was expected.
The Bulldogs came into the season returning players like Georgia Mueller, Julie Guinn and Laura Joya.
It seemed like a season of promise.
However, Truman (4-14, 1-10 MIAA) are in the midst of a three-game skid and currently sit in last place in the MIAA.
“I don’t even know how I would word it,” Smith said. “Our first half would be disappointing.”
To top it off, the Bulldogs take on Pittsburg State (13-5, 8-3 MIAA) at 5:30 p.m. tonight, a team that is riding a three-game winning streak and is just two games out of first-place in the league.
Smith is a place that PSU second-year head coach Lane Lord knows all too well.
Last season, the Gorillas had struggles and wound up missing the MIAA postseason tournament.
“One thing I have been impressed with is that Truman has gotten better and better,” Lord said. “They have had a chance to win all five of their last games and they are a team that we have to be ready for.”
Truman has lost their last three games by a combined 10 points.
Both teams will look to influence the game’s tempo, as the Gorillas and Bulldogs sit on opposite ends of the spectrum in overall turnover margin. Pittsburg State boasts the conference’s best margin at +4.1 per game, while Truman is averaging nearly six more turnovers (-5.6) per game than its foes.
“We are going to turn it over,” Smith said. “I am not going to lie about it because there has not been a game where we have not had 20 turnovers.”
Lord said that is a factor that he hopes the Gorillas try to take advantage of.
“Their stats are a little misleading because they have changed their point guards and they have actually done a nice job of taking care of the basketball,” Lord said. “But, we are going to try to press and take the basketball.”
Another factor will be the post play.
That means that the conference’s fourth-leading scorer Nicole McCombs will have to compete with Georgia Mueller who, up until this year, averaged a double-double on the court.
“We want to continue to attack the rack, like we call it, and she has done a nice job of that,” Lord said. “They are pretty good inside with Georgia so it will be another tough matchup for our posts and guards.”
It is the play of McCombs that has Smith concerned the most.
“She has just gotten in game shape and she understands the philosophy and Lane has gotten a lot out of her,” Smith said. “You just have to do what you are capable of doing. We have to keep her out of the paint, but I really don’t what we are going to do because I have no idea what team of ours will show up.”
With Mueller falling off this season — averaging just 17 points per game and five rebounds — Smith said that she will have to come up big.
“We have been looking for Georgia Mueller for the last 18 games,” Smith said.
But, being on the road is not a big concern for Lord. The Gorillas are 5-4 on the road this season and boast a 3-2 mark in the MIAA.
“It will be a challenge but I like our team’s makeup and we play well on the road,” Lord said. “I think our team is playing well and they believe they can win and that is half the battle.”

Matthew Clark can be reached at matthew.clark@morningsun.net or at 620-231-2600, Ext. 140