By BEN JOHNSON
Larry Gipson's team was on a roll. The Northeastern State men had piled up five Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association wins in a row to start league play.
Then the RiverHawks hit a snag.
A home loss to Missouri Southern and blowout defeat on the road at Northwest Missouri State has NSU now reeling.
"We have too many players who are making too many costly mistakes," said NSU coach Larry Gipson, whose team is now 10-4 overall and 5-2 in conference play, which dropped them out of any claim for first place.
"We need to find a way to fight through that."
The RiverHawks' first opportunity to buck their losing trend comes tonight at home against Nebraska Kearney (5-8, 2-5).
The Lopers will enter with Connor Beranek leading the way offensively, tallying 19.4 points a game. The sophomore forward was averaging 31 points a game in his first four league contests, but he has only scored an average of 9.3 points a game in his last three league clashes (against Central Missouri, Missouri Western and Northwest Missouri State).
Beranek will try to score against a NSU club that has allowed 85.3 points a game in its last three MIAA outings.
"We've got a good group of kids that are competitive on one end of the floor, but they're not determined enough on defense," Gipson said following his team's loss to Northwest Missouri State on Monday night. "... We are not a very good defensive team right now. We don't understand defensive rotations and we don't fully understand how hard you have to play on every single possession against the quality of teams in this league."
The RiverHawks have also struggled at time on the offensive end. NSU went a combined 41-of-102 (40.2 percent) from the field in its two losses to Missouri Southern and Northwest Missouri State.
"Every team goes through these things," Gipson said. "We're being tested right now, and we just have to fight through the adversity."
In the women's game, which starts at 5:30, the NSU women will also look to snap a current two-game skid. Both of the RiverHawks' last two losses have come in overtime.
After his team's loss to Northwest Missouri State on Monday, NSU women's coach Randy Gipson said, "There isn't any magic potion. It's going to take a great collective effort and we have to work hard. We've lost three overtime games now this season, and we've had the lead late in all three. Maybe it's just a little bit of uncertainty in the players. Whatever the case, we can't dwell on that. We just have to work hard in practice, find a way to get enough of a lead and find a way to close out games."
The RiverHawks are now 6-8 overall and 3-4 in the MIAA. Nebraska Kearney is much the same at 6-7 and 3-4.