TWU held a 12-point second-half advantage Wednesday night but couldn’t stave off West Texas A&M’s furious comeback, losing a 60-57 nail-biter at Kitty Magee Arena.
The Lady Buffs (14-11, 10-6 Lone Star) reaped the rewards of Chontiquah White’s explosive second half. She scored 20 points in the half and finished with 26. White was 7-of-12 from the floor for the game and 12-of-13 from the free throw line in the second half. She also gave the Lady Buffs a crucial rebounding edge as she finished with 17 boards.
“She’s a good player,” TWU coach Beth Jillson said. “She’s a physical player. She’s not any taller than our girls. I just think she was more physical than us. Unfortunately, we gave up too many points and too many boards to her. That killed us to let anybody get to the free throw line 15 times.”
Following two White free throws, Ria Pateraki’s 3-pointer with 2:22 remaining gave the Pioneers a 57-50 lead.
The Pioneers then allowed Jordan Vessels, who entered the game just 1-of-10 from 3-point range, to hit a long, wide-open 3-pointer to make it 57-53 with 1:15 left.
Moments later, down by two, the Lady Buffs pressured Rebekah Cluley into a turnover. White then converted a conventional three-point play to give West Texas A&M a 58-57 lead with 39 seconds remaining.
After White added two free throws to make it 60-57, the Pioneers cooked up a 3-point look for Taylor Swift on their final play. Swift caught the ball in the right corner, took one dribble up the baseline and launched a step-back shot. The shot was off, and the Pioneers (6-15, 4-11) lost their eighth straight home game.
“They are very disappointed right now, but it is a step in the right direction,” Jillson said of the Pioneers. “We’ve got to take that and move forward to Saturday. It was hard because we were up by seven points with 2 1/2 minutes left. I was disappointed we had so much trouble against the press.”
The Pioneer offense was led by Pateraki, who delivered clutch shots in the second half in her most consistent game as a Pioneer. She scored 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting, including a perfect 3-for-3 from long range.
Pateraki didn’t commit any turnovers as the Pioneers committed just 15 on the night, compared with 30 in the their 59-49 loss Saturday to Texas A&M-Kingsville.
“I think this was probably her best game that she’s played for us,” Jillson said of Pateraki. “She has struggled with her turnovers and that was really solid.
“I thought the effort was there, definitely. It was a lot different from Saturday. I thought we executed offensively better. [Having] 15 turnovers is good for us.”
Coming off a 19-point performance in the Lady Buffs’ 55-53 win over last-place Cameron on Saturday, Devin Griffin had 16 points and eight rebounds for West Texas A&M. However, the Pioneers limited her to outside shots in the first half, when she shot 2-of-8, and TWU led 25-19 at halftime.
“I thought in the first half we did a really good job of giving up the shots we wanted to give up,” Jillson said. “If they hit a 3, we were playing off and we were OK with it. Our game plan was really good in the first half, and in the second half I was disappointed that we let them catch [the ball in the paint] so easy.”
After shooting just over 32 percent from the floor in the first half, the Pioneers started hot in the second half to take a 37-25 lead.
Swift’s layup off an inbounds play gave the Pioneers a 43-31 lead with just under 13 minutes remaining, but the Lady Buffs finished the half on a 29-14 run while shooting better than 54 percent after the break.
TWU will host Eastern New Mexico at 2 p.m. Saturday.
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .