Points are at a premium when the Northeastern State women step onto the basketball court. The proof is in the statistics.
The RiverHawks are second in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association in scoring defense at 59.2 points allowed per game — which is only a tenth of a point behind Fort Hays State.
No one knows about NSU’s defensive prowess more than Emporia State.
The Hornets ventured into Tahlequah on Jan. 22 without a loss, ranked second in the country and in the top three of the league in scoring. Emporia State left with its first loss, 59-44, a ranking that was much lower than No. 2 the next week and its lowest offensive output of the season.
“Several months of hard work is starting to show up,” NSU coach Randy Gipson said after the game. “The team is understanding what to do now.”
For the most part, though, the RiverHawks have had a solid understanding of what to do on the defensive end all year. In eight home conference games, NSU has allowed only 58.4 points per game. Meanwhile, the RiverHawks have allowed 60.2 points per contest in five road contests.
It’s even more astounding when you consider that NSU has been down to eight players on the roster for some time now. The RiverHawks were at nine until Jamie Jackson was ruled out for the rest of the season after playing in only three minutes against Fort Hays State on Jan. 18.
“It’s a struggle,” NSU forward Carrington Fox said after last week’s win over Central Oklahoma. “We all have aches and pains each day, and we each have to go to treatment; it’s like the whole team is in the training room all the time. But we’re in good shape, coach can make sure of that.”
The RiverHawks’ stamina and defensive tactics will be on display again tonight when they take on No. 7 Emporia State at White Auditorium. The game will tip at 5:30 p.m.
At 10-10 overall and 7-6 in the MIAA, NSU is coming off a 63-61 win over rival Central Oklahoma. Emporia State, tied atop the league standings with Central Missouri, most recently beat Washburn, 80-77, and is 21-2 overall and 12-2 in the conference.
In the NSU-Emporia State men’s game, one team will snap a prolonged losing streak. The RiverHawks (11-9, 6-7) are the midst of a five-game losing streak, while Emporia State (14-10, 7-7) has lost four straight.
NSU’s last performance was a 96-94 setback in double overtime against Central Oklahoma last week. But NSU coach Larry Gipson was able to find a silver lining.
“I think they played pretty well. It’s been an improvement on our last several outings,” Gipson said. “We did more things right than wrong.”
A part of NSU’s current losing streak was a 72-67 defeat against Emporia State in late January.
That game has Gipson feeling much different about his club.
“I’m extremely disappointed with tonight’s game,” Gipson said at the time. “...We have to play better as a team if we are going to start winning again.”
While losing seven of their last eight games, the RiverHawks have yet to do that.