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Western drops MIAA home opener

Missouri Western’s struggle to find a supporting scorer continued Saturday afternoon.

MIAA leading scorer Jessica Koch struggled in the first half before finding a rhythm late in the game. While Koch struggled, Emporia State surged to an eight-point halftime lead, and Western’s cold shooting compounded the problems in a 66-48 loss to the Hornets.

The Griffons shot just 30 percent, including Koch’s 7-for-20 showing, and Emporia led by as many as 24 late.

“It’s more of a mental thing,” Western coach Lynn Plett said. “We sometimes put up a shot but aren’t totally confident when we shoot it.”

Koch led all scorers with 19 points, and Brittany Griswold (10) was the only other Western player in double-digit scoring. Emporia’s height advantage in the post limited Western’s offense and provided a difficult challenge on the defensive end.

However, Emporia’s guards benefited from the increased attention to the post.

Emporia went 4-17 from beyond the arc, but the midrange game hurt Western. Rachel Hanf led the Hornets with 18 points and six assists. Emporia’s four guards accounted for 45 of the Hornets 66 points.

“Every time we tried to double one of their posts, they had guards that were waiting to hit a shot from the perimeter,” said Koch, who is averaging 21.8 points per game.

Staked to a lead, Emporia State (5-1, 2-0 MIAA) faced a Western press after halftime.

A good portion of the Hornets’ production from their guards came on easy press-break buckets after halftime. On three consecutive possessions, Emporia broke Western’s pressure on just three passes for easy buckets, distancing the Hornets to a 66-42 lead.

“We lack in confidence a little,” Western coach Lynn Plett said. “The front of our press was good, but we had players at the back end that were playing a little too conservatively and would only go halfway for a steal.”

The breaking point for Western came early in the second half.

The Griffons were held scoreless for nearly 8 minutes after Koch hit a lay-up with 16:13 left in the half. The Griffons’ next basket came with 8:56 left on an Emily Romdenne lay-up.

Western was outscored 7-0 in the span and missed six shots to go along with three turnovers.

“We had easy baskets that weren’t going in, and that just brings your confidence down even more,” Griswold said.

According to Plett, the Griffons (2-4, 0-2 MIAA) have been looking for someone to step in and pick up the scoring, but haven’t found it yet. That was evident in the loss to Emporia, Western’s second to open MIAA play.

Western has been forced to play a host of players new to Plett’s system, which has, in part, led to the early season struggle.

“We are still kind of in that gelling stage as a team,” Griswold said.

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