In Thursday’s fight between TWU and Texas A&M-Commerce, the Pioneers controlled the lead through the first 36 1/2 minutes.
But once the Lions grabbed the lead, they never gave it back.
TWU ran out of gas, while the Lions leaned on defense, hit the glass for rebounds and easy layups and completed a methodical comeback for an 80-70 victory at Kitty Magee Arena.
The Pioneers (15-10, 8-9 Lone Star) fended off the Lions throughout the third, but gave way to a 27-10 fourth-quarter Commerce performance that saw the Lions own the paint and outrebound TWU 22-6 with eight key offensive rebounds.
“I thought they really killed us on the boards in the second half,” TWU coach Beth Jillson said. “At halftime, I was telling our players that we were doing a good job, but in the second half, they really killed us. In the fourth, they attacked hard at the rim, and our defensive transition killed us. We also put them to the free throw line 43 times, and I don’t think I’ve ever coached a game giving up that many free throws.”
TWU built its lead, which was as high as 14 late in the third, back to 66-55 on a baseline jumper from Alexis Nezianya early in the fourth, but the Lions used a 13-1 run with three 3-pointers to take their first lead of the game at 68-67 with 3:30 left.
The Lions (19-7, 13-5) then forced several TWU turnovers that led to quick points for the final blow.
TWU had a solid start, kicking off the game on a 7-2 run.
Using two 3-pointers from KJ Stastny, who led all players at halftime with 11 points, TWU closed the first quarter up 18-13.
The Pioneers kept that momentum going to begin the second quarter, boosting their lead to as high as 10 on another Stastny 3 at 25-15. Stastny finished with a career-high 14 points.
But the Lions, who were led by 22 points from Krystal Pickron along with three others in double digits, kept pecking away at the lead.
In the first half, TWU held Commerce to 27.6 shooting from the field, but the second half was a whole other beast.
Commerce shot 75 percent in the third to jump-start the comeback but still trailed 60-53.
Nezianya had just four points at halftime but exploded for 11 points in the third and finished with 17. Kenesha Saygo finished with 18 points and Emily Spector added 11.
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.