After a back-and-forth first half in which neither team led by more than five points, first-place Incarnate Word made needed adjustments and got superb bench play to defeat TWU 59-52 on Wednesday at Kitty Magee Arena.
The Cardinals’ Ashlyn Green led all scorers with 20 points off the bench, and center Rose Whitehead spearheaded a lopsided 36-14 UIW scoring advantage in the paint with 16 points.
“They have a really balanced scoring attack,” TWU coach Beth Jillson said. “They had almost four people in double digits and I know [Whitehead] was their high scorer last time, so we knew it could be anybody that could step up and score for them.”
TWU guard Rebekah Cluley led the Pioneers with 16 points, with guard Rachel Schlosser adding nine points and leading the Pioneers with 10 rebounds. Post players Ria Pateraki and Mary Kovtun were in foul trouble throughout the game, with Kovtun fouling out late in the second half.
“It hurt having Ria on the bench,” Jillson said. “Mary came off the bench and stepped up. I think [Ria] suffers from bad habits defensively and gets herself into foul trouble and gets frustrated. Some of those fouls were questionable, but people see that and they scout that.”
In a first half that saw each team shoot under 36 percent from the floor, the Pioneers took a 26-25 lead at the break.
The Pioneers were tasked with navigating the Cardinals’ zone defense, with Cluley and Kovtun leading TWU with six points apiece and Pateraki adding four points after getting into foul trouble early in the half.
Incarnate Word’s first-half offense was bolstered by Whitehead’s 12 points as TWU’s defense, which came up with seven steals in the half, held leading scorer Lauren McKinney without a point.
Jillson said how her team closed the first half and opened the second half was the turning point in the game.
“I thought it really started when we were up 25-20 and we gave up an and-one, so we gave up three points there. Then we come down the floor with 11 seconds, and instead of getting a shot, we turned over the ball and fouled, so we ended the half 26-25. Unfortunately, we came out in the second half and started the same way we ended the first half. We didn’t have a lot of energy or intensity, and they jumped out on us.
The Cardinals picked up their offensive pace in the second half, with their bench contributing 17 points. The Pioneers’ offense fell flat, shooting just over 24 percent from the floor in the half.
After going 1 of 4 from the free-throw line in the first half, Incarnate Word got to the line with more frequency in the second, hitting 10 of 16 from the charity stripe.
The Cardinals (7-2, 3-0 Lone Star) outrebounded TWU 42-38 for the game.
“Defensively, to hold that team to 59 points is pretty good,” Jillson said. “We did have some defensive breakdowns and they did get into the lane too much in the second half. Offensively, we have to do a better job executing. We shot the ball very, very poorly. When we got the ball inside, I thought that was a good thing, but we missed some easy shots inside that those players make.”
The Pioneers (3-7, 1-3) now take their Christmas break before visiting West Texas A&M at 6 p.m. Jan. 3 for their fifth road game of the season.
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .