WARRENSBURG - Coming off the second worst two-game stretch of her illustrious career, senior Morgan Fleming got back on track with a season-high 29-point effort to give the No. 24 Jennies a 76-69 win over Fort Hays State (RV) on Thursday, Feb. 13.
“I thought Mo (Fleming) and Meg (Megan Skaggs) played like seniors down the stretch and got things done that we needed to get done,” Central Missouri coach Dave Slifer said.
Fleming entered Thursday’s game coming off a season low five points on 1 of 7 shooting against Missouri Western and a 3 of 15 night at Northwest Missouri State where 10 of her 16 points came from the free throw line.
“We just said, Mo take the ball to the hole, take the ball to the hole, take the ball to the hole and you’ll get out of it. Now, obviously, she made four three’s, which she hasn’t made in a month.
Against the Tigers, Fleming broke out with a 9 of 18 shooting night including 4 of 8 from behind the arc - the first time since Jan. 11 the senior made multiple 3-pointers in a game.
“It’s still never easy, but just knowing that I have coaches and teammates that believe in me makes it a lot easier to keep grinding and keep fighting through it,” Fleming said on getting out of the slump. “Knowing that if you are trying to put in the work outside of it that hopefully one of these day it’ll come and it did for me tonight.”
Fleming and Skaggs combined for 52 points in the win, carrying the Jennies to a bounce-back win after seeing their 15-game winning streak come to an end against Missouri Western on Saturday, Feb. 8.
The Jennies used an 11-0 run in the opening frame to break open an 8-8 tie to lead 21-10 at the end of one. Fleming splashed a pair of triples during the burst.
Fort Hays answered with a 12-0 run of their own to start the second quarter to erase the deficit and take a 22-21 lead with four minutes, 26 seconds left in the half.
The Jennies closed the half by outscoring the Tigers 9-5 to take a 32-29 lead into the intermission.
Central Missouri (19-4, 13-1 MIAA) stretched its lead out to 10 in the first three minutes of the second half, only for Fort Hays to reel the Jennies back into a 57-57 tie heading into the fourth quarter.
Kim Crown scored five of her nine points in the game in the third quarter as Nija Collier dealt with foul trouble, leading to a season-low five points for the junior. Collier still managed double-digit rebounds with 10 - the 10th time this season she has hit double figures in boards.
“I thought Kim Crown came off the bench and played like a senior on a night where Nija wasn’t at her best,” Slifer said. “Kim came in and gave us some great minutes.”
UCM led for the opening six minutes of the final quarter. Fort Hays tied the game at 67-67 then extended its lead to 69-67 with two free throws - going 2 of 4 in two separate trips to the charity stripe.
Fort Hays did not make a shot from the field in the final 4:06 of the contest.
Fleming tied the game back up at 69-all with a layup then gave UCM the lead for good with a pair of free throws of her own.
Skaggs, who finished 23 points, iced the game away by going 4-for-4 at the free throw line in the final 30 seconds.
“I am just glad we pulled it out,” Fleming said. “It wasn’t always pretty, but we found a way to get it done and that’s what you are trying to do in March and late February.”
There were more fouls called in the contest, 48 with 24 being called against both teams, then there were made shots in the contest, 44, and nearly as many turnovers as the two teams combined to give away 40 possessions.
“We all want it to be better and easier and we don’t want to turn it over and we don’t want to foul and we don’t want to give up offensive rebounds and we did all three and still found a way to win, so we will take it and move on,” Slifer said.
Central Missouri hosts Nebraska-Kearney at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15, for a chance to all but seal the MIAA regular season title.
The No. 25 Lopers, who sit in second place in the MIAA with a 12-2 record in conference and a 23-2 record overall, are coming off a 60-52 win over Lincoln for their 11th straight win.