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TWU notebook: Defense plays key role in TWU victories

Profile image for By Randy Cummings
By Randy Cummings

Defensive stands in back-to-back games last week proved two things to TWU — one, that the Pioneers can play with the best in the Lone Star Conference, and two, that they can win on the road.

Defense played a major role in TWU’s stunning 55-48 upset of first-place Tarleton State last Wednesday. In handing the TexAnns their first LSC loss of the season, the Pioneers limited Tarleton to 15 points in the first half and then held off a fierce rally — an 11-0 run cut the Pioneers’ lead to four — in the second half.

On Saturday at Texas A&M-Commerce, the Pioneers again relied on a strong defense to hold the Lions to eight points under their scoring average and come way with their first conference road win of the season. TWU is 3-8 in road games overall.

“These two wins gave us some confidence and showed us that we can win on the road and beat the No. 1 team in the conference,” senior guard Jessica Hanna said. “We know if we take care of the ball, good things will happen.”

The Pioneers held the TexAnns to nearly 25 points under their season average. Texas A&M-Commerce entered Saturday’s game scoring at a 57.6 clip for the year, but the Pioneers won 63-49.

“In both games we played really solid defense, and that’s what we’re proud of,” head coach Beth Jillson said. “I’m really encouraged by our defensive effort.

“I think we’re starting to jell as a team,” Jillson said. “We’re maturing as a team. I think they know their potential. I think these games sent a message to the team: We’re capable of beating anybody if we play smart and play tough defense for 40 minutes.”

In both games, the Pioneers came up with a balanced offensive attack to complement their defense. Against Tarleton, Raquel Cuffie (12 points, nine rebounds) was joined in double figures by Hanna with 12 points and Brittney Nuzum with 10. Nuzum led three players scoring in double digits against the Lions with 18 points; Hanna added 11 while Tabbatha Thurmond added 10.

TWU (12-10, 7-9 LSC) has a chance to shake up the standings this week with a trip to Cameron today before returning home Saturday to play Midwestern State. Cameron (14-8, 10-7) is in fourth place while Midwestern State (18-4, 14-2) is in second.


Hanna breaks TWU record

Jessica Hanna made four steals against A&M-Commerce to become TWU’s career leader.

Hanna needed two steals to take over the top spot in the record books from Kelly Gibson, who set the previous mark of 173 career steals from 1987-91.

Hanna totaled six steals in last week’s two games, running her career mark to 176.


Smith remains second in nation in assists

Cambria Smith remains second in the nation in assists per game after handing out a combined 14 in last week’s games.

Smith, a senior guard, has dished out 166 assists for a 7.5 average this season. She trails Christine Duffy of Southern New Hampshire, who averages 8.1 per game.


Hanna named LSC’s top defender of week

Texas Woman's University senior Jessica Hanna has been named Lone Star Conference Women's Basketball Defensive Player of the Week for the week of Feb. 6-13. The LSC weekly award is seventh for Hanna in her TWU career.

Hanna helped the Pioneers hold the two opponents to 34.2 percent shooting and 48.5 points per game last week. She averaged 11.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.0 steals in the two wins against Tarleton State and Texas A&M-Commerce. Hanna led the game with nine rebounds and went 8-for-8 from the free-throw line while playing all 40 minutes against Tarleton State. Against Texas A&M-Commerce she recorded four steals to become TWU’s all-time leader with 176.



Pioneers improve in record-setting fashion

TWU’s gymnasts just keep getting better and better, and are doing so in record-setting fashion.

On Saturday, for the fourth time in six meets this season, the Pioneers improved their team score. This time, in a dual home meet with Centenary, TWU won with a season-high score of 194.200.

The victory was sparked by a school-record score of 49.275 on floor exercise and a season-best score of 48.725 on vault.

“I don’t think the girls realized it was happening,” head coach Lisa Bowerman said of the record marks. “It just shows you a lot about our team — just how focused they are in trying to make individual improvement.

“They’re just out there doing their job, and the results have turned out great.”

The school-record floor score was the result of three performers turning in career-high marks: Marcella Fallon (9.875), Chaynade Knowles (9.875) and Kayla Jones (9.850).

“I think it’s been particularly important with this team this year to just do the things within our control,” Bowerman said. “It’s been great that they’ve really bought into it.”

The Pioneers will face Centenary again Friday, when they travel to Shreveport, La., for a dual meet.



TWU has solid weekend

For the Pioneers, there were two encouraging signs to come from last weekend’s weather-interrupted tournament at Abilene Christian. More importantly, both signs resulted in victories.

Although the Pioneers (3-2) were able to play only two games in the scheduled two-day tournament before cold, windy weather forced the cancellation of Saturday’s games, TWU managed to record 14-8 and 1-0 wins over Missouri Southern on Friday.

In the first game, head coach Richie Bruister saw his offense erupt for 12 hits to support his belief that the Pioneers have the potential to be high-scoring team. In the second game, sophomore pitcher Katie Hines had a three-hit, complete-game performance.

“We’ve definitely wanted to see an offensive explosion like that,” Bruister said. “We’ve been waiting to see that happen.”

Freshman infielder Kendra Sancet knocked in three runs in the slugfest and went 3 for 7 in the two games. Bailey Vrazel, Sarah Wittenburg and Tiffany Weise each contributed two RBIs in the first game.

In the second game, Hines not only was in control from the circle — striking out four — but she also accounted for the only run with an RBI single in the fifth inning. Hines had two of the Pioneers’ four hits.

“It was a dominating performance,” Bruister said. “She’s got good control and great movement on the ball. The batters aren’t able to hit the ball hard off her. She’s pitching very well.”

The Pioneers travel to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to play Nova Southeastern and West Florida on Friday and Boca Raton, Fla., for a doubleheader against Lynn on Saturday.