Pioneers’ offense sputters in final minutes of loss
In a tightly contested Lone Star Conference game between sixth-place Texas A&M-Commerce and eighth-place TWU on Wednesday, the Pioneers looked as if they were ready to pull away in the second half.
But with TWU leading 44-36, Danielle Dixon’s hot shooting led the Lions back for a 54-50 victory at Kitty Magee Arena.
The Pioneers had used an 8-1 run of their own to take the eight-point lead, but La’Tisha Hearne hit three straight buckets to give the Lions the momentum.
TWU coach Beth Jillson said her team should have seized the moment and finished off the win.
“We were up by eight with eight minutes left, and we could have put the dagger in,” Jillson said. “We were tasting blood. Then we just let them right back in the game. We killed ourselves tonight with offensive inefficiency.
“There were times tonight where we had people wide open and we were trying to make a tough pass. We would have a wide-open layup or shot, and we would have our head down.”
The Lions were led by forward Breanna Harris’ game-high 18 points and 12 rebounds. The junior from Mansfield posted 13 points and 16 rebounds in the first showdown between TWU and A&M-Commerce on Nov. 28.
While the Pioneers (6-12, 4-8 Lone Star) held Harris to just three second-half points, the Lions leaned on their outside shooting. Dixon knocked down three straight shots for eight points in the final three minutes of the game, including a jumper as the shot clock expired with 1:08 remaining to give the Lions a three-point lead.
Taylor Swift hit a baseline jumper with 47 seconds remaining to inch the Pioneers to within 51-50, but Dixon answered with a 3-pointer gave the Lions a two-possession lead with 30 seconds left.
“Honestly, that’s what we were giving up,” Jillson said of the outside looks A&M-Commerce was getting. “We were trying to pack it in so they didn’t go to town on us inside. Harris had 15 points at halftime but only three points in the second half. I thought we did a better job on her.”
After Tabbatha Thurmond’s jumper gave the Pioneers their 44-36 lead, they struggled to just six points in the final 10:54 of the game. TWU shot 28 percent from the floor in the second half after shooting 35.5 percent in the first.
“They changed up their defense and we changed up our offense,” Jillson said. “We struggled to get in our offense and execute. It would take us 20 seconds to get into our offense. That wasn’t the whole game, but I thought the last eight minutes really, really hurt us. We have to mature as a team and execute offensively.”
The Lions (7-9, 5-6) shot just over 48 percent from the floor in the first half but led just 30-29 at halftime after jumping out to a 13-5 lead.
After getting down early, the Pioneers responded with an 8-0 run by exploiting A&M-Commerce’s interior defense while forcing the Lions to settle for outside jumpers.
Rebekah Cluley led the Pioneers with 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while Kaitlyn Waller added six points and 10 rebounds.
“I thought [Cluley] did a good job being aggressive and getting to basket,” Jillson said. “She did a good job against their zone. We had her at the high post, and she did a good job of flashing and making layups. She’s just solid. She’s going to do a lot of the little things right. A lot of times you don’t notice what she does.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is email@example.com .