PITTSBURG — It didn’t take long for the No. 12 Gorilla women to assert themselves as the aggressor in Pittsburg State’s 77-50 win over Ferris State Friday at John Lance Arena in the Pitt State Classic.
Pitt State (3-0) opened up the first quarter putting it on the Bulldogs (0-3), using full-court pressure defense and the extra pass on offense to outscore Ferris State 26-5 over the first 10 minutes of game action. The Gorilla women controled the tempo over the remaining three quarters, cruising to a 27-point win.
“I thought tonight, similar to last weekend, we got off to a great start again with our defense — the full-court pressure,” Pitt State head coach Lane Lord said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game, but we really dominated in the first quarter with our pressure, which turned into a lot of easy baskets for us.”
As a team, the Gorilla women shot 42 percent from the field, 29 for 69, and had four players finish in double figures.
Pitt State shot 36.8 percent from long range, connecting on 14-of-38 shots from beyond the 3-point line as a team.
“They force you to make outside shots,” Lord said. “I knew we were probably going to shoot 20 to 25 threes, I had no idea we would shoot 38 — which is a lot of threes to be taking … Luckily, for us, we shot 37 percent from three, and I’ll take that every night.”
Junior PSU guard Mikaela Burgess led all scorers with 20 points, making 6-of-14 shots from 3-point range. She added three assists as well as three steals on the defensive end.
Junior forward Elena Flott had 13 points and tied Madison Northcutt for the game high in rebounds, with eight.
Senior point guard Haydn Herlocker had 11 points, and finished with a team high in assists, with five, and steals, also five.
Coming off the bench, sophomore guard Shelby Lopez was 3-of-5 beyond the arc, finishing the game with 11 points.
“Shelby Lopez is one tremendous shooter,” Lord said. “We know what we are going to get from Mikaela, but to have Shelby step up like she has early this year … We just really feel like we can shoot it at four positions.”
Forward Rachel McInerney was the leading scorer and rebounder for the Bulldogs, finishing the night with 10 points and seven boards.
Pitt State won the turnover battled 26-15, and outscored Ferris State 23-3 off turnovers.
PSU used an inside score from Flott and a triple at the top of the key by Herlocker to build an early 5-0 lead in the opening minutes.
The Gorilla women continued to find success from the perimeter, knocking down a total of five shots from beyond the ark in the first quarter.
A transition 3-pointer from Flott pushed the lead to 10-2, prompting Ferris State to call the game’s first timeout.
The break in action did little to slow down the Gorillas’ momentum, with Pitt State’s Paige Lungwitz getting a steal at midcourt and turning it into a run-out layup at the other end out of the timeout to give PSU its first double-digit lead, 12-2, at the 6:42 mark of the opening quarter.
“Having the momentum on our side is huge, and it just carries us throughout the game,” Flott said. “As long as we can keep the momentum on our side, good things happen.”
Pitt State got 3-pointers from Burgess, Herlocker and Lopez as well as an offensive rebound and tipin by Athena Alvarado to finish out the quarter in front 26-5.
“When you get up 26-5, you’re going to have to be doing something right defensively,” Lord said. “We set the tone, and it fueled our team.”
The Gorilla women’s defensive effort in the first quarter, forcing the Bulldogs into 14 turnovers, was the driving force behind the first-quarter surge. Pitt State turned the takeaways in 14 points going the other way and held Ferris State to 18 percent shooting, 2 for 11.
“That’s one of the things we just talked about in the locker room,” Burgess said when asked about how the first quarter set the tone. “Our defense has really been outstanding so far in all three games that we’ve played. It’s something that has really carried us and given us a lot of momentum.”
The scoring slowed down for both teams in the second quarter, with the Gorillas hanging on to their 20-point advantage until a pair of late makes from the perimeter by Lopez cushioned the advantage to 36-11 with less than a minute to play in the half.
Burgess ripped a 3-pointer from the top of the key with five seconds left in the second quarter to send Pitt State into the intermission with a 39-13 lead on the back of a 9-2 run.
“Mikaela struggled a little early, but hit the big one at the half and that got her confidence going,” Lord said. “She came out and hit two in a row at the start of the second half.”
Burgess helped keep the Bulldogs at bay in the third quarter, knocking down a trio of triples to help give PSU a 48-22 lead with four minutes left to play in the period.
Pitt State used a 9-0 run — backed by five points from Burgess as well as a pair of inside scores from Flott and Herlocker — midway through the final quarter to push the lead to more than 30 points for the first time in the game, 66-35.
CLIMBING THE LEADERBOARD
Herlocker finished the night with five assists, giving her a current total of 262 for her career. She is four dimes away from moving into eighth all-time for PSU.
Burgess’ six triples moved her into third all-time for Pitt State in made 3-pointers, passing Alexa Bordewick. Burgess is 18 made 3-pointers away from second place.
The Gorillas are 3-0 this season, with all of the wins coming in front of the home crowd at John Lance Arena. Pitt State has outscored all of their opponents by 20 or more points this season.
Pitt State is in action against Arkansas Fort Smith at 3 p.m. today inside 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.