Two days removed from a four-point victory over Cameron, TWU found itself in another offensively strained matchup against visiting South Dakota School of Mines.
Holding just a three-point halftime advantage, the Pioneers broke out of their offensive shell by doubling their first-half output on the way to a 73-50 victory over the Hardrockers on Saturday.
“We started off slow,” TWU coach Beth Jillson said. “They came with a double team, which we haven’t seen a whole lot. I thought we settled down in the second half and handled the double team really well. We actually got some layups out of it. I really credit our bench. I thought we had some people come in and really contribute defensively and offensively.”
In concert with the bench output of 40 points, junior forward Ria Pateraki was TWU’s go-to offensive option with 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting. She also paced the team with 11 rebounds — her third straight double-double.
“Ria really wants the ball,” Jillson said. “Early in the game, even though we were struggling to make shots, she wants it inside. She posts hard. She has a great outside shot, and she hit a 3 that pulled the defense out. We want her to continue to look for that more and more.
“She plays great with her back to the basket, and she’s doing a much better job on the boards too. We’ve just seen so much growth from her.”
Saturday’s game was the fourth straight victory for the Pioneers and their third straight at Kitty Magee Arena in a span of six days.
“Three games in six days is hard,” Jillson said. “It’s really comparable to the conference tournament. We have a great group of ladies. We have 15 players that work really hard day in and day out. A lot of them don’t see the floor. It’s just fun to watch them succeed, and it was fun for our entire team to watch. The depth of our team is really, really good.”
Freshman guard Deja Pointer led the TWU bench with 10 points and four rebounds. Sophomore Danielle Westerfield and senior Kaitlyn Waller each added eight points while bolstering TWU’s 40-point paint performance, compared with 18 for the Hardrockers (7-15) .
“Coach just told us to play hard even though it wasn’t a conference game,” Pointer said. “We just came out in the second half and tried to push up the score. We just tried to get the ball to the post, like coach told us, and to get post looks first and everything else will fall into place.”
After managing just 14 paint points in the 24-21 first half, the Pioneers (12-9) drilled the Hardrockers with three straight paint buckets to open the second. The Hardrockers’ outside shooting kept them in the game.
Up 33-31 with 13:48 remaining, the Pioneers took control with a five-minute, 16-2 run using quick transition offense, wise passing and decisive shot selection.
TWU shot 63 percent in the second half and just under 52 percent for the game, compared with the Hardrockers’ 31.6 percent.
“We were definitely trying to push the tempo of the game, which caused the other team to rush,” Pointer said. “We definitely needed the breathing room. We used what we worked on in practice, and it all fell into place.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.