Statistically, TWU hadn’t exactly painted a masterpiece with its first-half play, but as the game went along, the defensive brushstrokes and energy began to blend together down the stretch of the second half as the Pioneers emerged with a 62-56 comeback victory over Southeastern Oklahoma State on Monday night at Kitty Magee Arena.
The Pioneers (4-3) shot just 21 percent from the floor in the first half but rallied in the second half with a much more accurate shooting touch as they finished the second half with 39 percent shooting on the way to outscoring the Savage Storm by 10.
As for what accounted for the Pioneers’ offensive success, TWU head coach Beth Jillson said it started with their defense.
“We defended really well,” Jillson said. “For them to only shoot 28 percent and we shot 30 percent and still won the game. That’s really the emphasis every night is to be able to defend, contest every shot and get a box-out. They know this, but it was an ugly win. We’ve been off for 19 games, but it was a win. I thought they fought hard and showed a lot of character being down the whole game. I thought we responded well, especially in the last four minutes to take the lead and hold on to the lead.”
After ending the first half down 29-25, the Pioneers posted a 9-0 run in a span of less than two minutes on the back of junior guard Toree Mason, who led the offense midway through the second half for a 43-39 lead.
“We just had to push the ball in transition,” Mason said. “I think they were tired, so we decided to push the ball and we got a lot of buckets off that. I think the transition points set the spark for the second half along with the steals that led to transition points. I feel like my second half was a lot better than my first half. We were down the whole game, so I knew I had to do something to pick it up.”
Mason, who led the Pioneers with 14 points, was 5-of-8 from the field and 4-of-6 from the free-throw line, where the Pioneers got to frequently in the second half after getting into the bonus early on the way to 28-of-41 as a team from the line.
“Toree was huge,” Jillson said. “She’s a fearless competitor, and she’s not afraid to get to the rim. We had to adjust to our early foul trouble and we struggled early on from the free-throw line, but we were better in the second half.”
The Pioneers fell behind late in the game with the Savage Storm (5-3) holding a 51-49 advantage with 7:13 to play, but TWU ended the game on a 12-5 run with senior guard Rebekah Cluley, who also had 12 points on the night, pressuring SOSU’s Shelby Hill into a turnover and foul with just under 16 seconds remaining.
Cluley knocked down both free throws to give TWU the 61-56 edge and preserve the Pioneers’ fourth home victory in as many games.
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.