It could have taken place in a back alley somewhere. It could have been a showdown in a boxing ring.
Either way, Northeastern State was knocked out early.
Missouri Southern took over early in the contest at the NSU Event Center and never wavered en route to an 80-65 trouncing over the RiverHawks in front of 612 in attendance.
"I think we got beat by a superior basketball team," NSU coach Larry Gipson said. "They whipped us in every way possible. They were physically and mentally tougher than us.
"...It was like getting into a fist fight; they hit us about two or three times and we really didn't want any more of the fight."
Both Jordan Talbert and Slim Magee tallied 14 points for Missouri Southern, and Cameron Cornelius and Marquis Addison added 10 points apiece as the Lions knocked the RiverHawks (10-3, 5-1 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association) from the ranks of the unbeaten in conference play. The RiverHawks are now tied for first in the league with Missouri Southern and Central Missouri.
The Lions climbed atop the standings by dominating NSU in every facet of the game. The RiverHawks were out-rebounded 43-25 while getting outscored in the paint, 34-14.
"This team knocked us off our screens, and they were physical with us," said Gipson, whose team shot 36.5 percent (19-of-52) from the field, compared to Missouri Southern's 50-percent (28-of-56) effort.
"...I think, if there's any positive to this, hopefully we can learn that this is the way we need to play. And we need to be more focused and determined."
Bryton Hobbs, who fouled out with a minute left in the game, led NSU with 20 points. However, he was only five-of-15 from the floor. Most of his point production came at the free-throw line, where he converted on nine of 12 attempts.
Jeremy McDonald came off the bench to contribute 14 points to the RiverHawks' losing cause. Dalen Qualls had 12 points and Curtis Evans tossed in 11 points.
As for Missouri Southern's dominance, it began around the midway mark of the first half. The Lions went ahead 16-15 on Bixby native Austin Wright's jumper with 10:17 to play, and Missouri Southern never looked back.
The Lions (11-2, 5-1) led 38-30 at halftime and eventually built up to a 63-46 advantage with 8:20 to play.
Getting Missouri Southern's lead down to nine (66-57) with 4:20 to play, Northeastern State could never put together a rally to conjure up any suspense in the second half.
Next up for the RiverHawks is a trip to Maryville, Mo., to take on Northwest Missouri State on Monday.
Mo. Southern 80, NSU 65
Mo. Southern 38 42 - 80
Northeastern State 30 35 - 65
Mo. Southern (11-2, 5-1 MIAA): Slim Magee 14, Jordan Talbert 14, Cameron Cornelius 10, Marquis Addison 10, Greg Renfroe 8, Austin Wright 7, Blaine Miller 6, Lane Barlow 6, Matt Everson 3, Randy Clark 2.
NSU (10-3, 5-1 MIAA): Bryton Hobbs 20, Jeremy McDonald 14, Dalen Qualsl 12, Curtis Evans 11, Marcus Sheppard 5, Amir Gilliam 2, Keon Littleton 1.
Women: Missouri Southern 80, NSU 77
Chelsey Beathard let go of a 3-point attempt that would have won the game for Northeastern State. Instead, the junior guard's shot from the right wing cascaded off the rim and the RiverHawks went into overtime against Missouri Southern.
Making matters worse, after being leveled by two Missouri Southern players, Beathard sauntered to NSU's bench holding her shoulder in pain.
It was down hill from there for the RiverHawks in extra time.
The Lions wore down Northeastern State and exited the NSU Event Center with a three-point victory in conference play.
Missouri Southern's Shonte Clay led all scorers with 20 points, thanks to a seven-of-10 effort from the field. Sharese Jones (15), Dominique Mosley (14), Alexis Fitzpatrick (11) and Shawnee Phillips (10) all finished in double figures for the Lions (10-3, 4-2 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association).
With three seconds left in overtime, Phillips made two free throws to increase Missouri Southern's lead to three. With one last attempt to tie the game, NSU turned the ball over at midcourt on its final possession.
Pacing the RiverHawks (6-7, 3-3) was Che'Ron Lewis with 15 points. Sarah Sagely finished with 13 points, and Beathard added 11 points despite going two-of-eight from the floor.
NSU led 32-29 at halftime, but the Lions answered with a 21-9 run to take a 50-41 lead at the 13:15 mark.
Playing without leading scorer Fontana Tate for the second straight game, the RiverHawks finished 52.1 percent (25-of-48) from the field, but managed to go 21-of-31 (67.7 percent) from the free-throw line while getting out-rebounded 38-22.
With another quick turnaround, NSU will be on the road Monday at Northwest Missouri State.
Mo. Southern 80, NSU 77
Mo. Southern 29 41 10 80
Northeastern State 32 38 7 77
Mo. Southern (10-3, 4-2 MIAA): Shonte Clay 20, Sharese Jones 15, Dominique Mosley 14, Alexis Fitzpatrick 11, Shawnee Phillips 10, Nicole Hartzog 5, Samantha Soyez 3, Kristen Hanna 2.
NSU (6-7, 3-3 MIAA): Che’Ron Lewis 15, Sarah Sagely 13, Chelsey Beathard 11, Carrington Fox 9, Kate Bellamy 9, Courtney Cowan 8, Jamie Jackson 7, Mya Walker 5.