With several teams in contention for the final spot in the Lone Star Conference tournament, last-place Texas A&M-Kingsville got itself into the mix with a 59-49 victory over TWU on Saturday at Kitty Magee Arena.
The Javelinas were led by freshman Ashley Vierra’s 14 points and Brandi Clark’s eight.
TWU was led by Rekekah Cluley and Taylor Swift with nine points apiece.
Both teams struggled to score, as A&M-Kingsville shot only 32.7 percent from the floor and TWU was a shade better at 33.3 percent.
The Pioneers, who recently have struggled to get off to a good start at home, took a 9-5 lead when Toree Mason dished to Kaitlyn Waller for an easy layup.
The Javelinas hit some 3-pointers in a 15-2 run that saw TWU miss layups and commit turnovers, and A&M-Kingsville led 20-11.
The Javelinas began pressing TWU, which forced the Pioneers into risky crosscourt passes and difficult shots with the shot clock winding down.
A&M-Kingsville extended the lead to 25-11 before TWU was able to come up with consecutive stops and whittle the deficit to 28-18 at halftime.
“We talked about the first half and having too many turnovers with not a good shooting percentage,” TWU coach Beth Jillson said. “We continue to be horrible decision makers. I didn’t think their press was anything tough. I thought it was a press where you could reverse the ball a couple times, get it down there and run the offense. If you can look to attack, then look to attack, but if not, you have to be efficient offensively.”
The Pioneers committed 30 turnovers that led to 16 points for A&M-Kingsville, compared with 23 turnovers by the Javelinas.
“We didn’t get the ball down the court before we turned it over, and then when we did, we didn’t really get into an offense,” Jillson said. “It was really frustrating.”
Needing to improve TWU’s offensive consistency, Jillson tinkered with her lineup to try to cut down on sloppy play. The Pioneers responded by hitting four of their first five shots to open the second half and drew to within 39-33 after Waller’s offensive rebound and putback.
A Cluley bucket capped a 7-0 run to make it 39-35, but that was as close as the Pioneers got. A&M-Kingsville responded with an 8-0 run.
“I thought we were going to make [another] run there, but it just didn’t happen,” Jillson said. “[The Javelinas] responded well and give them credit.”
The Pioneers shot 40.7 percent from the floor in the second half but couldn’t make crucial stops or offensive plays to get within striking distance.
TWU won 70-66 in Kingsville on Dec. 8.
The Javelinas (5-15, 3-11 Lone Star) are making a push for the final spot in the conference tournament.
The Pioneers (6-14, 4-10) are in jeopardy of missing the tournament, but four of their six remaining games are at home. They face key matchups against Cameron (3-11) and Eastern New Mexico (4-10) and must visit LSC-leading Midwestern State (17-3) and Abilene Christian (16-4).
TWU will return to action when it plays host to West Texas A&M at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is email@example.com.