Inconsistent play continues to plague the TWU basketball team, which remains in the hunt for a berth in the Lone Star Conference tournament.
The Pioneers (6-12, 4-8 LSC) have dropped two straight games, including a four-point home loss to Texas A&M-Commerce last Wednesday in their most recent outing. In the 54-50 defeat, the Pioneers led by eight points midway through the second half before poor shooting and turnovers cost them the game.
It was a similar situation two weeks ago at Tarleton State, where TWU held a five-point advantage with about 10 minutes remaining before falling 71-69.
“We’re up and down, and we’ve got to find that consistency,” TWU coach Beth Jillson said. “You can’t be up by eight and then not score a field goal for six minutes. We just gave it away. We feel like we’re beating ourselves.”
It’s even more frustrating for the Pioneers because they’ve also exploded on offensive runs while trailing in games and gone on to win. Last month at Cameron, TWU overcame 11-point deficits three times in the second half and claimed a 52-50 victory.
“We talk about consistency all the time,” Jillson said. “We can’t give the other team opportunities. You have to play smart and you have to play focused.”
Because of league scheduling, TWU has played just two games since Jan. 19. The Pioneers return to action at 5:30 p.m. today at Incarnate Word. Starting at 2 p.m. Saturday against Texas A&M-Kingsville, the Pioneers play three consecutive home games in eight days.
Approach pays dividends
A slightly different approach to their training and mental preparation for a meet may have paid dividends for the Pioneers in their dual meet victory over Lindenwood on Saturday.
Usually, the Pioneers are instructed to focus on their own events and disregard what their opponents are doing.
But TWU coach Lisa Bowerman reminded her squad last week that gymnastics is a competitive sport in which winning remains the goal.
“In gymnastics it’s very easy, and in a lot of ways makes good sense, to just focus on what you need to do in the gym and in the meets and that it doesn’t really matter whom we’re competing against or what they’re doing,” Bowerman said. “Maybe our athletes were losing sight of the fact that it’s still a competition.
“Although our biggest goal is how we do as a team and our score,” she said, “it’s still about winning.”
The new approach worked as the Pioneers posted a season-best score of 193.150 to win the dual.
“I realized as a leader that even I was talking about that too much and the team just lost sight of the fact that we’re out there to win,” Bowerman said.
TWU’s Courtney Cochefski (bars, 9.850), Spencer Jones (balance beam, 9.825) and Margaret Mayfield (beam, 9.750) earned career-high scores in their respective events.
TWU competes in four-way meets on each of the next two Fridays, beginning this week when it joins Arizona, Illinois State and Pittsburgh at the IGI Chicago Style Invitational in Chicago. Next week will be the Bart Connor Perfect 10 Invitational in Oklahoma City against Boise State, BYU and Oklahoma.
Coach faces alma mater
For the first time in her head coaching career, Bowerman will be going up against her alma mater when the Pioneers face Illinois State at 7 p.m. Friday.
Bowerman, TWU’s second-year coach, competed for Illinois State from 2001-04, serving as captain during her senior year and setting school records in beam and floor exercise with scores of 9.95. She still holds both marks.
“I am a Redbird, so it’s always special for me competing against Illinois State,” Bowerman said. “It’s exciting to see them do well, but I want to be able to take them down.”
Some good, some bad
Softball coach Richie Bruister saw plenty of good and bad things from his Pioneers at the season-opening St. Mary’s Classic over the weekend, with Bailey Vrazel’s inspiring play topping the list of positives.
Vrazel, a two-time All-Lone Star pick and an All-America scholar, batted .412 over the five games and led the team with seven hits.
Vrazel scored three runs, and the junior who holds the school and conference single-season records for steals notched four steals in seven attempts.
“She’s our offensive spark,” Bruister said. “She’s one of the best leadoff hitters in the country. She’s a pleasure to watch. She’s going to put the ball in play, and as fast as she is, something’s going to happen.
“The other team is either going to make a mistake, or more times than not, she’s going to get a hit. And if she’s on base, there’s a good chance that we’re going to score.”
The Pioneers went 2-3 in San Antonio, but Sunday’s 10-0 loss to Lubbock Christian doesn’t count against TWU’s regional consideration because LCU is an NAIA program just beginning a three-year transition period to NCAA Division II.
“My philosophy going into the weekend was to look at a lot of different things,” Bruister said. “The team that figures out the most about their team early in the season is going to have a lot more success.
“I know we’ve got a lot of things to work on,” he said. “You have to eliminate the big inning. We didn’t do that.”
In their five games, the Pioneers gave up a total of 26 runs, with 23 coming in just four innings.
Maddox has solid debut
The collegiate debut of freshman catcher Ashley Maddox caught the eye of Bruister after she singled in her first at-bat and went 3-for-3 with a homer in another game.
In TWU’s second game of the weekend, Bruister sent Maddox in as a pinch hitter against St. Mary’s and she singled in her first career plate appearance.
Against Southeastern Oklahoma State, the Pflugerville product started behind the plate and hit two singles and her first home run.
“We’ve got to find a chance for her to play,” Bruister said.
Maddox also performed well behind the plate with junior Katie Hines pitching.
“Katie is extremely hard to catch because she’s a drop ball pitcher,” Bruister said. “But Ashley blocked everything. She had an outstanding game.”
The Pioneers will open their home campaign Friday and Saturday with a three-game series against Newman.
The Lady Jets from Wichita, Kan., will visit Pioneer Field for a 2 p.m. doubleheader on Friday and a single game at 11 a.m. Saturday.
After this weekend, the Pioneers will travel for two tournaments before returning home Feb. 26.