Southwest nips Lady Lions, 73-72
SAGU dominates boards, 61-30
Winston, Rodriguez, Bruner, Roberts in double-digits
HOBBS, New Mexico -- One point. The smallest margin possible between teams on the basketball court. On Saturday that little disparity was as different as comparing timber to a toothpick.
The University of the Southwest slipped past Southwestern Assemblies of God University, 73-72, in a women’s college basketball game played at the Jack & Mabel Maddox Student Life Center.
SAGU, winners in five of their past seven games in which they yielded an average of just 52 points, led for the majority of the game. But, with six minutes left in the game, the last place Mustangs used their best scoring surge of the game to build a 65-56 lead with only three minutes to play.
Behind a pair of clutch three-point baskets from sophomore Nia Winston (Garland, Tx / Panola JuCo, Lakeview Centennial HS), the Lady Lions made a frantic rally to draw to within two points.
With less than thirty seconds remaining, the Purple Pride fouled Johnelle Kapua, one of six Mustangs who make over 70% from the foul line. Under pressure, she misfired on both shots, giving SAGU hope.
USW responded by fouling Winston, SAGU’s best from the charity stripe (71%) with fifteen seconds showing on the clock. She nailed the second of a pair and the deficit was whittled to one, at 73-72.
Employing a fullcourt press, the Lady Lions appeared to have forced a turnover, only to have officials rule the ball was deflected by someone in purple. The Mustangs were able to hang on to the ball and the lead as the horn sounded.
It translated into a joyous celebration for Southwest, who had lost 16 of their previous 17 games. Their only other win came similarly, in a 68-62 defeat of SAGU in Waxahachie. They came back in the last two minutes to steal a game they trailed until then.
The Lady Lions, now 8-13 overall and 5-10 in the Red River Athletic Conference, scored almost twenty points over their league average of 53 points per game. It was almost enough.
USW’s league-worst defense had surrendered over 100 points on eight occasions and was allowing 95 ppg. It was their best defensive effort in nineteen games. Southwest improved their record to 7-16 in all games and are 2-15 in games against RRAC foes.
Windex Crew wipes glass clean
Most frustrating for SAGU was losing a game in which they dominated the boards by a whopping 61-30 count, including 21-9 on the offensive glass. Making short putbacks and layups, a season-long bugaboo, was the main difference in the game.
“Disheartening,” Assistant Coach Ryan Russell said from the gym foyer following the game. “We just didn’t finish layups. We had the height advantage and led most of the game. It was our game for the taking.”
“It wasn’t about missing free throws,” he continued, “or Nia’s miss. We made 16 of 23 on the line and Nia was the one who triggered our comeback. She made 7-of-8 free throws.”
True. Steady progress on the charity stripe has been a key component in the team’s recent rise after falling to 3-13 a month ago.
Despite the number of extra opportunities afford by the rebound mastery, SAGU made just 26 of 68 shots (38%). They also commited 21 turnovers. That fueled the Mustangs, who managed to fire 77 shots. Though they could connect on just 26 (34%), the hosts had an 11-4 advantage in triples and coughed up the ball only nine times in mistakes.
SAGU got a favorable edge from the officials, with 23 FT attempts. The Lions made 16, though they were 10 of 17 in the second half. USW was 10 of 13, all coming in the second half.
The score at intermission was 30-28, Lady Lions.
Individually, Winston was high among four teammates in double-figures. She poured in 20 points, with a trio of treys, five boards and a pair of steals.
Jirah Rodriguez (Georgetown, Tx / Georgetown HS) netted 15 and yanked down a season-best 12 rebounds. Gabby Bruner (Peaster, Tx / Peaster HS) bucketed 12 points, sank all four of her foul shots and, like a minesweeper, claimed 16 boards, her best effort in her four-year career.
Center Shaquita Roberts (San Antonio, Tx / Byron Steele HS) also accounted for a dozen points. The junior reeled in 15 caroms and swatted three shots. Okevia Bratchett (Center, Tx / Tenaha HS), a freshman guard, tossed in nine points and added three assists.
Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS), who had been on a tear of late, was a non-factor. Limited to nine minutes on the floor, she was in foul trouble from the start. Cox, with a pair of 17-rebound performances last week, still grabbed six on Saturday. She was held scoreless and was cited for four fouls.
The Mustangs were paced by Simone Buckhanan and Tarah Turner. The point-producing pair made like Pegasus twins, racking up 25 and 22 points respectively.
Buckhanan had six assists and made all seven of her attempts from the foul line. Turner knocked down six trifectas in 13 tries. Anna Hostas contributed 12 points, swishing 4-of-9 beyond the arc.
Lions and Tigers meet in Dallas on Monday
The Lady Lions must recover quickly as they return to the hardwood on Monday in southeast Dallas. SAGU will meet Paul Quinn College (6-15, 4-10 in RRAC) at 5:30pm. Southwestern defeated the Lady Tigers last month, 47-38.
Of their nine remaining contests, six are against teams with winning records. With five home dates, it is a great opportunity to bounce back and to gain ground before the RRAC tournament in four weeks.