PITTSBURG — Led by Kelly Moten’s 27 points, No. 5 Emporia State handed No. 3 Pittsburg State’s women’s basketball its first loss of the season, 78-70, Saturday in a non-conference matchup inside John Lance Arena.
In a back-and-forth contest which saw 16 ties and 20 lead changes, neither team held a lead greater than five until the final minute of the contest. With the game tied at 67-all, Emporia State outscored Pitt State 11-3 over the final three minutes of play.
“Just another typical Emporia State, Pitt State game. It’s going to come down to the last couple possessions,” Pitt State head coach Lane Lord said. “Today, the did just a fantastic job with their ball screens, and they got the best player in the country (Kelly Moten), and she made us look pretty silly at times.”
Moten put ESU on her back in the final five minutes of the game, scoring nine of her game-high 27 points. She finished 11 of 22 from the field, adding a game-high seven assists and four rebounds in the win.
“She is a very good player,” Pitt State guard Mikaela Burgess said. “It’s hard because you have the mindset that you can guard her one on one, then they get the ball screen — she’s just a great player.”
Emporia State (12-1) shot 42 percent from the field as a team, and finished with three players in double figures.
Kathryn Flott earned a double-double after scoring 19 points and pulling down a game-high 15 rebounds, while Addie Lackey added 12 points for the Hornets.
Pitt State (11-1) shot 44 percent as a team, with three players finishing with double-digit scoring totals.
The Gorilla women were led in scoring by Mikaela Burgess, who finished with 22 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Burgess was a perfect 10 for 10 in free-throw attempts for PSU.
Madison Northcutt scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while Paige Lungwitz scored 10 and added seven boards.
The Hornets out-rebounded the Gorillas 47-33, grabbing 25 offensive boards in the win.
“The key to this game was their offensive rebounds,” Lord said. “They just absolutely dominated on the offensive glass, 25 offensive rebounds is 25 more chances they have to score. You take five or 10 of those away and you might have a better ball game. That was the difference tonight.”
Emporia State matched its largest lead of the game to that point early in the fourth quarter, 55-51, on an Lackey 3-pointer with a minute expired.
The Gorillas battled to regain the lead with seven minutes to play off a Burgess jumper to make the score 59-58.
ESU’s Jacee Kramer knocked down a 3-pointer in the corner off the Moten swing pass to give the Hornets a 61-59 advantage, but PSU’s Haydn Herlocker found Northcutt on the backdoor cut the next trip down the floor to tie the game up at 61-all with 5:15 to play.
Moten took over offensively for the Hornets over the next several possessions, driving to hoop for a pair of scores, while assisting on a third ESU basket to put the Hornets on top 67-65 with 3:35 left in the ballgame.
A Herlocker drive left for a layup tied the game back up at 67-all, but it was another Moten basket off the drive which gave Emporia State the two-point advantage on the next trip down the floor.
The Gorilla women missed on a pair of chances at the other end, and Flott split a double team out of the timeout and converted a three-point play with one minute to play to give the Hornets a 72-67 advantage.
Pitt State turned the ball over at the other end, with Moten earning the steal and a three-point play to give ESU a 75-67 lead with 39 seconds to play, sealing the win with free throws in the closing seconds.
A team which normally relies heavily on 3-point attempts, the Gorillas shot just 11 times from the perimeter in the loss to the Hornets, making two of them.
“That’s what it’s going to be like playing a conference team,” Burgess said. “We felt like we knew everything they were going run, and they probably felt the exact same way about us. I think that showed in the game — they stopped a lot of things we were used to getting and made us hit our second and third option.”
The matchup between the conference rivals was the first of two meetings this season, and was the first game action either team had seen in several weeks. Fatigue was an issue for both teams but not an excuse, according to both Coach Lord and the players, which attributed to 36 combined turnovers.
“I think both teams were pretty tired,” Lord said. “Us, with 19 turnovers, and them with 17, both teams are really good basketball teams who usually don’t turn the ball over. I think a lot of that had to do with fatigue.”
The Gorilla women look to rebound with a matchup at Northwestern Oklahoma at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 2 in Alva, Oklahoma.
Editor’s note: Because of early deadlines with the holiday, the PSU women’s basketball story will not be in print until Tuesday’s edition of The Morning Sun.
-- Lucas Davis is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on twitter @LDsportswriter.