Linda Hargrove referred to Missouri State’s top two players mostly by their uniform numbers.
Hargrove, the Wichita State interim women’s basketball coach who has been on the job for less than two weeks, is beyond that point with her own players. But after Missouri State’s 65-60 win over the Shockers on Sunday at Koch Arena, Hargrove acknowledged her learning curve.
Wichita State (10-11, 5-5) had won five consecutive games.
Needing a three-pointer in the final minute, Hargrove left guards Jeliah Preston and Aundra Stovall, who have combined to make 40 percent of their threes this season, on the bench.
Freshman Kayla Williams was inserted instead, and she missed a game-tying shot before MSU (11-10, 7-3 Missouri Valley Conference) finished off the Shockers with two free throws.
“I thought Kayla got as good a look as she could get in that situation,” Hargrove said. “It looked from the bench like it was right on line, it was just a little bit short. I’m still learning the personnel, so I think I know who should be in the game at certain situations.
“But I’m not always right, and I told the team after the game I don’t think I did a very good at the very end of this game, either. I’m going to get better at learning what our personnel can do in different situations and putting us in a better situation to win.”
Stovall, a starter, and Preston, who made her only three-point shot of the game, combined to play three second-half minutes, all by Stovall. Their absences weren’t often conspicuous, though, because fellow guard Keke Thompson had control.
Thompson scored 10 of her career-high 16 points in the fourth quarter and was the only player for either team – 14 in all – who played more than 14 minutes without a turnover. Her drive for a layup and three-point play tied the score 60-60 with 83 seconds to play.
“My team needed me,” Thompson said. “They made sure I had confidence in myself, and at the end, they depended on me and I just put them on my back and executed when I needed to.”
MSU scored the final five points after though the Shockers missed a chance to take the lead when Brittany Martin missed a point-blank shot in the final minute. The Bears’ game-closing run was the culmination of two factors WSU couldn’t overcome.
WSU’s Rangie Bessard and fellow post player Angiee Tompkins fouled out in the final three minutes, pressing Martin, who hadn’t played to that point, into duty. Bessard was whistled for her fifth foul on a charge with 2:53 to go.
“I could have done better with a lot of my fouls,” said Bessard, who had 15 points and six rebounds. “I could have been in better position, I could have not let them post up and stand behind them. I’m not going to sit here and blame the officials, a lot of those fouls were on me.”
All of MSU’s final five points were scored by Lexi Hughes, a Bishop Miege product who led all scorers with 22. She made three of five three-pointers in the second half as WSU’s defense became more lax than in the first, when MSU shot 28.6 percent.
MSU’s leading scorer, Liza Freundt, didn’t score in the second half. But Hughes took advantage of more frequent open shots than the Bears had in the first 20 minutes.
“We were keying on No. 5 (Freundt), we were keying on her a little bit more,” Hargrove said. “That possibly opened up No. 2, Lexi Hughes, maybe having an opportunity to get more open looks.
“She got some three-point shots that she was wide-open on. They weren’t contested shots at all, and players at this level should be able to knock those shots down and she did.”
MISSOURI STATE: Hughes 7-12 5-5 22, Fruendt 5-18 2-3 15, Holt 1-2 1-2 3, Buckley 2-7 3-4 7, Willard 3-5 1-2 8, Gitzen 2-3 1-2 5, Polowy 1-3 0-0 3, Ealy 1-6 0-0 2, Swartz 0-0 0-0 0, Osemenam 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-56 13-18 65.
WICHITA STATE: Stovall 0-4, 0-0 0, Lockhart 3-6 2-2 8, Lozada-Cabbage 2-6 0-0 4, Williams 1-7 2-2 5, Bessard 6-9 2-3 15, Thompson 6-8 4-5 16, Preston 1-3 0-0 3, Lee 2-10 1-1 5, Martin 0-1 0-0 0, Mike 0-4 0-0 0, Tompkins 1-4 2-3 4. Totals 22-62 13-16 60.
Three-point shooting—MSU 8-23 (Hughes 3-5, Fruendt 3-11, Willard 1-2, Polowy 1-2, Holt 0-1, Ealy 0-2), WSU 3-15 (Preston 1-1, Bessard 1-3, Williams 1-4, Stovall 0-1, Mike 0-2, Lee 0-4). Rebounds—MSU 40 (Fruendt, Ealy 6), WSU 37 (Lockhart, Bessard 6). Total fouls—MSU 13, WSU 24. Technicals—None. Steals—MSU 6 (Gitzen 2), WSU 12 (Lockhart, Bessard 3). Assists—MSU 9 (Fruendt 4), WSU 9 (Thompson, Mike 3). A—1,237.