Morning Sun
  • Parity rules the MIAA

  • Expectations were very high for the Pittsburg State women entering the 2012-2013 season, especially since the Gorillas just came off a historical 27-6 season highlighted by the first three NCAA Tournament victories in school history and an appearance in the Elite Eight.

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  • Expectations were very high for the Pittsburg State women entering the 2012-2013 season, especially since the Gorillas just came off a historical 27-6 season highlighted by the first three NCAA Tournament victories in school history and an appearance in the Elite Eight.
    Never mind that Pitt State would be returning Lizzy Jeronimus, an All-American her freshman season, as well as Drew Roberts and Alexa Bordewick, veteran guards, and several other contributors off that 27-6 squad.
    However, every season brings a new team and this year’s team is not last year’s team, which featured a large senior group (Larissa Richards, Brooke Conley, Courtney Tate, Amanda Orloske, Britnee Foster) important not only for their production but for their leadership on and off the floor.
    Plus, expansion of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association brought four new teams (Central Oklahoma, Lindenwood, Nebraska-Kearney and Northeastern State) and four new challenges to an already challenging basketball conference.
    “It's difficult every year but it's more difficult than it's ever been in the six years I've been here,” Pitt State head coach Lane Lord said. “No. 1, there's so many good teams. There's no absolutely dominant team like in years past. You can tell by the scores of late, real close low-scoring games and lots of upsets. The coaches do an amazing job of scouting. Any team in the league can possibly beat you every night. We have so much parity.”
    Several MIAA teams have been ranked in the USA Today/WBCA poll: Pitt State, Washburn, Central Missouri, Fort Hays, Emporia State and Northeastern State have all spent time in the poll. Currently, Washburn (No. 14), Central Missouri (No. 16) and Pitt State (No. 18) are top 25 teams.
    Another MIAA school, Truman State, has been steadily moving up the ranks of the ‘Others Receiving Votes’ category.
    The Pitt State women have a 12-5 overall record and a 6-3 mark in the MIAA, one of several title contenders. The Gorillas had an off day Saturday and on Friday afternoon, as he was on his way to a basketball tournament in Topeka, he found time for an interview assessing the state-of-the-season.
    “For the most part last season, nobody got hurt,” Lord said. “That doesn't happen very often. Early on, before the season even, Alexa suffered a high ankle sprain and that will affect her all year. Drew got hurt before Christmas. Cathy (Brugman) has been playing through a knee injury at about 70 percent. Hailey's (Roderique) out for the season with her knee injury. I'm proud of where we're at right now because of all the adversity we've faced this year. We've even had our four redshirts hurt — an ankle, a concussion and two are in wheelchairs.”
    Depth has been a team strength the past two seasons and it’s come in handy with sophomore Morgan Westhoff developing into a more potent and more consistent bench scorer, redshirt sophomore Brigit Hesser taking on more ballhandling responsibilities and senior Lisa Elmer becoming a defensive specialist in the absence of Hailey Roderique and the insertion of Y’Cedria Devers into the starting lineup, for example.
    Page 2 of 3 - In the recent Fort Hays win, Pitt State bench players contributed 26 of the Gorillas’ 51 points. Westhoff ranks second on the Gorillas with 9.3 points per contest and leads with 32 made 3-point shots, 13 more than the next highest total on the Gorillas.
    Taking a look at the Pitt State active roster, only three seniors — Roberts, Lauren Brown and Elmer — and multiple underclassmen, including five sophomores and two freshmen, stands out immediately.
    “We're a very young team,” Lord said. “Our sophomore class is our biggest class. Lizzy, Morgan, Brigit, Y'Cedria, Hailey, they're one heck of a class. Cathy and Kylie are just freshmen.”
    Of course, the Gorillas are paced by sophomore forward Jeronimus, who leads the MIAA in scoring at 19 points per game.
    In NCAA-II statistical categories updated Thursday, Jeronimus ranks 15th in the nation in scoring. Bianca Simmons of Massachusetts-Lowell (a 5-foot-6 senior guard) leads the nation with a 27.2 scoring average.
    No. 42 also ranks tied for 68th in free throw percentage (82.9) and her 87 made free throws place her among the nation’s elite in that category.
    “I'm actually more impressed with her because she's getting doubleteamed this year,” Lord said. “She's still leading the league in scoring and leading our team in assists. She's been playing some great defense like the Hays game, holding Katelyn Edwards, one of their best players, to 0-10.”
    Early last season, Lord articulated his theory of pleasing or not pleasing the basketball gods. His theory centered on feeding the ball inside to post players like Richards and Brown or establishing the drive to the hoop before launching outside shots. Establish the inside game first, then work for mid-range and outside shots when the defense shifts its focus to inside.
    With senior Brown (6-6) and freshman Kylie Gafford (6-2) inside, Pitt State features two potentially dominant interior presences. When she played a career-high 32 minutes against Northwest Missouri, Brown smashed the PSU single-game rebounding standard with 22. Both have struggled with foul trouble, sometimes both in the same game.
    “It's huge,” Lord said of the bigs staying away from foul trouble.
    “Lauren alters the game. We need to do a better job of getting her more touches, as we do Kylie. We'll focus more on pounding the ball inside.
    “We've lived and died by the 3 too much. When you do that, you're playing with fire. If we establish the inside first, we'll keep defenses more honest and we'll be able to kick it out for open looks. We're a good defensive team when they're on the floor.”
    The Gorillas are in the midst of a stretch of road games — six of seven away from Whetzel Court/John Lance Arena. Pitt State owns a 2-2 record on the road during this stretch and closes out this patch with Missouri Western on Wednesday and Washburn on Saturday.
    Page 3 of 3 - The Lady Blues have been historically tough on the Gorillas in Lee Arena . . . in fact, Pitt State last defeated Washburn on the Lady Blues’ home court on Feb. 10, 2001. However, Pitt State did win all three NCAA Tournament games last year at Lee Arena.
    Lord talked about the schedule, a byproduct of an expanded MIAA.
    “Every team in the the league has struggles with the schedule,” Lord said. “The key is that you should not get too high with the wins, not too low with the losses. We have this stretch of six out of seven games on the road but, at the same time, we play five of our final seven at home. We're looking at finishing strong and finishing one of the top four in league.”
    After the Washburn game, Pitt State will have consecutive home games against Truman State, Southwest Baptist and Northeastern State, back-to-back road games against Emporia State and Central Oklahoma and back-to-back home games against Missouri Southern and Emporia State to close out the regular season.
    The top four regular season finishers earn an automatic spot in the MIAA Championship in Kansas City and do not play an on-campus first round game.
    School                     MIAA    Overall
    Washburn                7-1    13-3
    Truman State           8-2    15-3
    Northeastern State   8-2    13-5
    Central Missouri       7-2    15-2
    Pittsburg State         6-3    12-5
    Emporia State          4-3    9-6
    Missouri Western     5-5    12-6
    Fort Hays State        4-5    12-5
    Northwest Missouri   4-5    10-6
    Missouri Southern     4-5    10-7
    Lincoln                       4-6    9-9
    Southwest Baptist      3-6    8-9
    Nebraska-Kearney     2-8    5-12
    Central Oklahoma     1-7    8-8
    Lindenwood               1-8    4-13
    Saturday, Jan. 26
    Washburn 64, Lindenwood 46
    Truman State 57, Fort Hays State 55 (2 OT)
    Lincoln 73, Missouri Western 66
    Northeastern State 69, Missouri Southern 45
    Southwest Baptist 91, Nebraska-Kearney 62
    Central Missouri 60, Northwest Missouri 52
    Sunday, Jan. 27
    Central Oklahoma at Emporia State
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