Alexa Willard

Senior Alexa Willard prepares to shoot a free throw. The lady bears won 109-32 against Lincoln on Monday.

The Missouri State Lady Bears started out quickly in two exhibition games, beating their two opponents by a combined score of 201-81.

The first game was against Lincoln University on Oct. 28, a 109-32 victory. It was head coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton’s debut, and almost everything went right for the Lady Bears.

The first period ended with a 36-5 Lady Bears lead. Agugua-Hamilton had said before the season she wanted the women to score frequently in transition, and in the first quarter — the Lady Bears’ most aggressive frame — they scored 12 points on the fast break.

“We want to play up-tempo, but we have an organized break that has options,” Agugua-Hamilton said after the Lincoln game. “We executed it tonight. I liked that.”

Offensively, the Lady Bears spread the ball around — 12 of the 13 players scored at least once. Sophomore forward Jasmine Franklin lead the way with 21 points and shot perfect 10-for-10.

The Lady Bears shot the ball well as a team, shooting 68.7% from the field.

One of the more interesting offensive developments against Lincoln was junior center Emily Gartner’s shooting behind the arc. She took two 3-point attempts, making both. She had previously taken only two 3-point shots in her career at Missouri State, missing both in 2017-18.

Agugua-Hamilton said Gartner’s shooting was something the coaching staff is working on with all of the post players.

“If you can stretch the floor and make people guard you out there, then you gotta go one-on-one inside,” Agugua-Hamilton said. “We don’t want people to be able just to double us.”

Gartner was one of the surprise players from preseason, Agugua-Hamilton said. The head coach said Gartner is now healthy.

“She has bought in to being the best she can be and being physical in the paint,” Agugua-Hamilton said. “That is something she has not necessarily done in the past, but now our scout team is like, ‘Man, now we have to really fight and get around Emily because she is being very physical.’”

The Lady Bears played Southwest Baptist, from 45 minutes north in Bolivar, on Nov. 1, winning 92-49.

They were again aggressive in the first half, leading 50-15 when the first half buzzer sounded.

Shooting percentages for the Lady Bears were not as high as the game against Lincoln at 47% from the field.

Rebounding was a bright spot against SBU. The Lady Bears grabbed 56 boards — 25 of them offensive.

Franklin was again a force on the floor. She recorded a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds.

“I was really excited to be on the court — finally playing someone else besides our practice players,” Franklin said.

The Lady Bears played both games well from a defensive standpoint, forcing a combined 40 turnovers and scoring 50 points off them in the two contests.

The only issue that stood out in the exhibition matchups was the Lady Bears’ free-throw shooting. Against Lincoln, they shot 38.5% from the line and against SBU, they shot 58.6%, for a combined percentage of 48.5%. Last season, the Lady Bears shot 68.8% from the line.

“Our free throws — we’re going to talk about it in practice,” Agugua-Hamilton said. “I didn’t expect that.”

Agugua-Hamilton said the team still has a lot to get better at, but they have time to get there.

“I told them this is going to be a very special season for us,” Agugua-Hamilton said. “We’re not there yet, and we don’t have to be there yet. When we get there, I think it will be very special.”