Northeastern State already has the least amount of depth in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. The RiverHawks entered the second semester of the 2013-2014 season with nine players on their active roster.
On Thursday night, NSU was without the services of its leading scorer, Fontana Tate, who was out with a concussion.
That left NSU coach Randy Gipson with only three players on his bench.
Yet, none of that seemed to matter. NSU just went to work inside.
With double-digit scoring efforts from Che’Ron Lewis and Carrington Fox, NSU opened the second half of its season with a 60-47 triumph over Southwest Baptist.
“We’ve been battling injuries all year and we had Fontana out, and we knew that was going to be a big loss for us,” said Fox, a 5-foot-11 senior who recorded the first double-double of her career with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
“We all knew we had to step up and play without her, which was pretty hard.”
In Tate’s last game, the junior from Muldrow posted 18 points against Central Missouri. However, her services were unavailable after suffering a head injury in a recent practice.
“She got bumped in the head last week, and it’s been ongoing and she’s going through concussion protocol,” Gipson said. “We’ve known for the last two or three days that she was not going to be playing.”
That’s where Fox and Lewis picked up the slack. Fox had nine points by halftime, but it was Lewis who came alive in the second half — which NSU started on a 9-3 run to build up to a double-digit lead — with 12 of her game-high 18 points.
“We’re trying to go inside, and I think Carrington responded well,” Gipson said. “She and Che’Ron responded well with [Lewis’] 18 (points) and eight (rebounds) and [Fox’s] 14 and 10. That’s a good night there from our post people.”
The Bearcats — who were paced by 13 points apiece from Jacqui Zelenka and Leann Lansdown — trimmed NSU’s lead to six (51-45) with 2:17 left in the game, but the RiverHawks responded with a 9-2 run to end the game.
With a depleted roster, NSU (6-6, 3-2 MIAA) resorted to stingy defense. The RiverHawks made life miserable for Southwest Baptist (6-6, 1-4) on the offensive end to the tune of 22.4 percent (15-of-67) from the field. The Bearcats were also five-of-26 (19.2 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc.
“I thought it was just a good, solid defensive game,” Gipson said. “We had some stretches where we gave up some offensive boards, but we had some stretches there, I think, in the middle of the second half when we took control of the game. We really played well on the defensive boards.”
Southwest Baptist’s shooting percentage from the floor was the lowest churned out by aN NSU opponent this season. The RiverHawks — which outscored SBU 26-16 in the paint — finished 37.5 percent (18-of-48) from the field and 20-of-25 (80 percent) from the free-throw line.
NSU will continue its stretch of five games in 10 days with a home contest against Missouri Southern on Saturday. But now the RiverHawks are doing so with a win under their belt in 2014.
“Definitely, for sure,” Fox said. “That’s the best way to start the year.”
NSU 60, SW Baptist 47
SBU 21 26 -- 47
NSU 25 35 -- 60
Southwest Baptist (6-6, 1-4): Leann Lansdown 13, Jacqui Zelenka 13, Duncan 5, Lucy 4, Botkin 4, Johnson 3, Skupa 3, Plasencia 2.
NSU (6-6, 3-2): Che’Ron Lewis 18, Carrington Fox 14, Sagely 8, Bellamy 7, Walker 7, Beathard 5, Jackson 1.