In the second game of the Marriott Champions Circle Pioneer Premiere, the TWU Pioneers showcased the consistency that head coach Beth Jillson wished she’d seen more of in Saturday’s win over Regis.
The Pioneers also brought an invigorated defensive effort along with an efficient, season-high offensive showing with four players in double figures to help them secure an 81-53 victory over Central Oklahoma on Sunday at Kitty Magee Arena.
Senior center Mary Kovtun posted one of her best games of her career with a team-high 14 points and nine rebounds, while senior guard Rebekah Cluley and junior forward Ria Pateraki each scored 13 points. Cluley, along with sophomore forward Danielle Westerfield, who had 11 points and a first-half-high nine points, were both named to the all-tournament team.
After the Bronchos trimmed the lead to 14-11, TWU used its invasive paint presence to push UCO into foul trouble, as the Pioneers were 9-of-11 from the free-throw line in the first half. Ria Pateraki’s layup gave the Pioneers a 27-14 advantage and they extended that lead to 35-20 with four straight points from Westerfield, who was 3-of-3 from the field and from the free-throw line for nine first-half points.
“I think we both came out with not as much energy,” Westerfield said. “Maybe it was because the first game and coming back to another game, but we made the stops when we could, so it worked out for us. We got up in the beginning and fell into a lull, but we got back into it. Offensively, we were trying to attack and get to the hole as much as we could.”
Then, to put a cherry on top of an all-around stellar half in which the Pioneers again dominated the paint with a 20-8 advantage, senior guard Taylor Swift banked in a 3-pointer from just inside halfcourt to send them into halftime with a 38-20 lead.
TWU outrebound the Bronchos 27-18, had an 8-3 edge in assists and had two blocks, while Swift’s midcourt heave was the team’s only three-pointer of the half.
Overall, TWU (3-2) held Central Oklahoma (4-2) to 26 percent shooting from the floor, compared to the Pioneers’ 45.9 percent. With a stiff defensive effort, TWU forced 20 turnovers.
“I thought we did a great job shutting down their perimeter and outside kids,” Jillson said. “We got them frustrated, and I thought every shot they had to work for. Besides defense, I was most proud of the consistency.”
The Bronchos were able to cut the deficit to 38-25 with five straight points to start the half, but that would be as close as they could get as TWU ballooned its lead to 24 points at 54-30 on Cluely’s 3-pointer, which capped an 18-5 run. The Pioneers took their biggest lead of the game at 77-46 with 2:18 left in the game.
“We play in four-minute segments and we won every segment except for one and that one we tied,” Jillson said. “That shows a lot of maturity for our team and a lot of growth. I was really happy with the consistency, and the focus, and the commitment of the whole entire team to get it done.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.