The TWU Pioneers had finally solved their road woes and were riding a three-game winning streak heading in Sunday’s showdown against the Lone Star Conference’s top team in West Texas A&M.
Shooting better than 50 percent from the field with Devin Griffins’ 17 points leading the way, the seventh-ranked Lady Buffs sent the Pioneers to an 81-65 loss — their first at Kitty Magee Arena this season.
“I thought they had players that stepped up and made some tough shots,” TWU head coach Beth Jillson said. “Three times [Griffin] made running layups high off the glass. They made great shots. That’s what good teams do. I thought we battled for 40 minutes. We got tired in the second half, and we had crucial turnovers against their press that turned into layups. I thought that was the difference in the game was turnovers.”
TWU (8-9, 4-3 LSC) committed 20 turnovers, much of them late in the second half, to the Lady Buffs’ 15.
“They were in that 2-2-1 press the entire game, so it helps when you can get stops and push in transition and get some easy layups,” Jillson said. “I thought that’s how we cut the lead in the second half, but then we got stagnant and we had some turnovers against the press. That’s what their press will do is lull you to sleep, and if you’re not focused, they’ll get in the passing lanes and knife in for a layup. They got to the free-throw line late in the game and I thought that really helped them.”
The Lady Buffs (16-1, 7-0) were 18-of-24 from the line and had a knack for getting easy looks in the paint, where they outscored the Pioneers 32-22.
“We talked about that in the locker room,” Jillson said. “We’ve got to score more points in the paint. I feel like we’ve got a good post presence inside. We should have wanted the ball more and gotten the ball there more, too. It’s a two-way street. We definitely have to get more post touches to our bigs.”
The Pioneers were led by senior Rebekah Cluley’s 17 points, with 12 coming from the free-throw line, while junior forward Ria Pateraki was 6-of-10 from the field for 16 points. Junior guard Barbara-Scott Kolb added 13 points.
Jumping out to an 8-4 lead, TWU seemed to be keeping the ball out of the paint, limiting Griffin’s touches, but she was able to get on the board by capping a 6-0 run, which gave West Texas A&M an 11-8 lead.
The Pioneers later responded with a 6-1 run that gave them a 26-21 lead with 6:36 left in the first half, with Griffin only notching two points. But the Lady Buffs began hitting the 3-pointer, as they hit 6 of 11 in the first half.
“I felt like we defended pretty good tonight, but we did have some lapses where we left 3-point shooters open, and when you leave them, they can hit uncontested 3s but not contested ones,” Jillson said. “We didn’t allow any uncontested 3s against Eastern New Mexico.”
The Lady Buffs used a 6-2 run, all at the free-throw line, to close out the half up 40-33.
“The first eight minutes we only allowed eight points,” Jillson said. “I thought we could have stretched the lead there. It’s been a couple games that we’ve done this, but we can’t allow them to make a big run right before the half.”
Opening the second half with a 10-2 run, the Lady Buffs were in control at 50-37, but TWU clawed back to within four points at 54-50 midway through the second half.
That would be as close as the Pioneers would get as West Texas A&M broke the game open at the free-throw line and in transition.
“That’s something we haven’t seen before was the matchup zone, and they did a good job of getting out in the passing lanes trying to keep the ball on one side of the floor,” Jillson said. “So it is hard to get ball reversal and [when] you’re getting pressed the whole game. We handled it well at times and then we got really stagnant at times. We’ve got to be able to move and get ball reversal. At times we did, but not consistently.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.