Playing on the road continues to be trouble for the TWU basketball team, as evidenced by the Pioneers’ four most recent road games. In each outing, they were roughed up thanks to a combination of poor shooting and equally poor defensive play.
The Pioneers returned to the friendly environment of Kitty Magee Arena on Tuesday night, but their road issues remain a concern for coach Beth Jillson, whose team entered the game against Texas A&M-Kingsville with a 4-0 record at home and an 0-5 mark on opponents’ or neutral courts.
Two losses at a tournament in Las Vegas before Christmas and two Lone Star Conference defeats last week had the Pioneers on a four-game losing streak.
“It’s been a tough stretch,” Jillson said. “We’ve played some of our toughest opponents the last four games. We definitely haven’t shot the ball as well as we did early on. And depending on which game you look at, our turnovers have really hurt us. Those are areas we’ve got to improve on.”
TWU was outscored by 315-230 during that four-game skid, losing by an average of 21 points per game. The Pioneers’ defensive lapses have allowed teams to go on runs that have put the Pioneers in huge holes that are physically draining to escape from.
In a 70-59 loss at Midwestern State on Thursday, the Mustangs went on a 13-3 run en route to staking a 35-26 halftime lead. In an 87-69 loss Saturday at No. 19 Tarleton State, the TexAnns went on a 15-4 burst at the end of the first half for a nine-point lead.
“We’ve had some defensive breakdowns, defensive lapses that have led to easy baskets,” Jillson said. “We need to be tougher on the road.
“You’ve got to be able to go on the road and play great defense. You might not be able to score many points, but you’ve got to be able to make some stops and steals that lead to easy buckets on the other end.”
Jillson said she saw some positives in the 11-point defeat at Midwestern — last year’s LSC champion. The game was close until the final minutes when TWU’s top three scorers got into foul trouble. The Pioneers also shot a miserable 19-of-30 from the free throw line.
“If we’d have made more of our free throws, we’d have been in the game or might have won it,” Jillson said. “We were right there the whole game.”
Tough opener slated
There will be no easing into the 2014 season for the Pioneers, as they prepare to go on the road Friday to face No. 13 Auburn in a season-opening dual meet.
TWU enters the season with an experienced squad that features 12 returning letter winners and eight seniors who last year helped the Pioneers finish second at the USA Gymnastics national meet.
The Pioneers will face nine teams that advanced to the NCAA meet a year ago. TWU makes its home debut Jan. 18 in a dual meet against Air Force at Kitty Magee.
Team captains named
Fifth-year senior Brittany Johnson and juniors Kayla Jones and Spencer Jones have been voted captains by their teammates.
Johnson captured the 2011 USAG all-around national title before a leg injury sidelined her for all but four meets a year ago. Two years ago, she became the second gymnast in school history to receive USAG All-America honors in vault, uneven bars, balance beam, floor exercise and all-around in the same season.
Kayla Jones has been named captain for the second consecutive season. She is the defending Midwest Independent Conference champion in vault.
Spencer Jones has competed at every TWU meet in her first two seasons and last year was named the MIC newcomer of the year.
Pioneers up to five signings
Krum’s Jordan Crawford is among five student-athletes who have signed national letters of intent to join the TWU volleyball team in the fall.
Crawford, a two-time first-team All-District 9-3A pick, will be joined by Baylie Barnes, Briley Cole, Elizabeth Pennington and Kimberlly Redwine in TWU’s recruiting class for 2014.
The Lady Cats’ Most Valuable Player in 2011, Crawford is a 5-10 outside hitter who helped lead Krum to Class 2A area championships in 2011 and 2012.
Redwine, a 6-0 setter and right side hitter, played two years at Temple College and was named the 2013 conference setter of the year. As a senior at Decatur in 2011, Redwine earned first-team all-state honors in Class 3A.
Pennington is a 6-1 middle blocker from Roanoke who was named the District 5-4A most valuable blocker last season. Cole, a 6-0 middle blocker, is a two-time all-district pick from Emory. Barnes, a 5-9 outside hitter from Blue Mound, is a three-time all-district honoree who was named District 6-4A’s outstanding hitter last season.