By BEN JOHNSON
Randy Gipson’s clubs are not accustomed to losing, especially back-to-back games.
Yet, entering Northeastern State’s MIAA opener against Emporia State on Wednesday night at Jack Dobbins Field House, that’s exactly where the RiverHawks find themselves — losers of consecutive games for the first time since February of 2009.
“Honestly, our biggest concern is just ourselves,” Gipson said on the eve of facing the No. 20 Hornets. “We haven’t found the recipe for success that we’re accustomed to. Regardless of who the other team is, we have our own issues to improve upon on both offense and defense.”
Providing offensive production hasn’t been an issue for Taylor Lewis or Tosha Tyler, NSU’s two leading scorers at a combined 25.1 points per game average. It’s the pieces around Tyler and Lewis that have struggled to provide points to this point.
One issue for NSU right now is “getting offensive execution,” Gipson said. “We have some new people on our front line. Laura Reel and Melissa Jones give us more size on the front line, but they’re learning from scratch. Getting them involved on offense has been a challenge; that’s an ongoing concern, and we’re hoping that we can see some strides and improvement on that (Wednesday).”
The RiverHawks (3-3) welcome an Emporia State team that beat NSU twice last season. Leading the way for the Hornets this season is Laura Patrick (15.8 points per game), Merissa Quick (12.0 points, eight rebounds a game) and Rhenna Egli, who is putting up 11.3 points per game.
“The real season starts now,” Gipson said. “And we’re going against a formidable opponent. They’re a big, physical team. We’re going to have to be ready to battle.”
In the men’s game, NSU will try to contain Emporia State’s Kaleb Wright, who is in the top five of the league in scoring at 19.2 points per game. (No other Hornets player averages in double figures in the scoring department).
“We’ve got to do a good job on Wright,” NSU men’s coach Larry Gipson said. “He’s a very good one-on-one player, he has good perimeter skills and he can post up. He presents a matchup problem.”
The RiverHawks enter the game 5-1, while Emporia State is 4-2. NSU is coming off a 65-63 loss last week to Harding.
“They nipped us,” Gipson said of Harding. “We just needed to tighten things up. Offensive execution needs to get tuned up. We’ll see if we learned any lessons from that game.”
Emporia State at Northeastern State
When: Wednesday night at 5:30 p.m. (women) and 7:30 (men).
Where: Jack Dobbins Field House.
Nicknames: NSU RiverHawks; Emporia State Hornets.
Records: NSU (3-3); Emporia State (3-1).
Coaches: NSU (Randy Gipson); Emporia State (Jory Collins).
About NSU: The RiverHawks enter having lost two straight games, to Tarleton State and Drury. ... Tosha Tyler is NSU’s leading scorer at 13.3 points per game.
About Emporia State: The Lady Hornets’ lone loss this season was to Colorado State-Pueblo (66-53). ... Emporia State has won the last three meetings with NSU.
Records: NSU (5-1); Emporia State (4-2).
Coaches: NSU (Larry Gipson); Emporia State (Shaun Vandiver).
About NSU: NSU’s 5-0 start to the season was its best since the 2005-2006 season. ... Bryton Hobbs is averaging 17.3 points and 5.2 assists per game for the RiverHawks.
About Emporia State: The Hornets have lost to Newman and Western Oregon since starting the season 3-0. ... Emporia State beat NSU twice in 2006-2007, the last time the two clubs met.