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TWU notebook: Defense feeding Pioneers’ road woes

Profile image for By Randy Cummings
By Randy Cummings

In its last two road games, the TWU basketball team has followed a familiar script that has seen the Pioneers fall behind by a large deficit, battle back to get to within a few baskets and then be too exhausted to finish off the comeback.

In losses at Tarleton State two weeks ago and Angelo State on Saturday, the Pioneers played with a defensive inconsistency that has kept them winless away from Denton while they’re unbeaten at Kitty Magee Arena.

“It’s the same story — we dig ourselves and get in a big hole and make a valiant comeback but then it’s too late,” TWU coach Beth Jillson said. “You expend so much energy that it’s hard down the stretch.”

At Tarleton on Jan. 4, the Pioneers found themselves staring at a 28-point deficit with 8:43 left. TWU got within nine points with 2 1/2 minutes remaining but wound up losing 87-69.

After returning home and holding off Texas A&M-Kingsville 72-69 on Jan. 7, the Pioneers fell behind Angelo State 32-13 late in the first half. TWU again battled back to a four-point difference but ended up losing 62-55.

“If you want to win games, you’ve got to play defense,” Jillson said. “We’re very inconsistent defensively. Some games we’re great and other games we struggle. We’ve had some great defensive performances, so we’re definitely capable.

“It takes all five people playing great defense for 30 seconds,” she said. “We gave up way too many offensive rebounds against Angelo. A lot of time we’d play good defense and force them to miss a shot, then we couldn’t get the rebound. And that deflates you.”

Jillson likes to break each half into four-minute segments, with an emphasis on winning or remaining competitive in each segment. She said practices this week will emphasize playing solid defense in each of those four-minute spans.

“You go on the road and your defense has got to be great. We preach that all the time,” Jillson said. “You’ve got to put 40 minutes together. You can’t play 20 minutes of good basketball and come up with a road win.”

The Pioneers will get a chance to reverse their road pattern Thursday when they play at Cameron. TWU returns home Sunday for a 6 p.m. game with Midwestern State.

Different start time

Sunday’s start time for TWU’s game against Midwestern State has been bumped from its usual afternoon time slot to 6 p.m. at Kitty Magee Arena.

The Pioneers are scheduled to play five Sunday games this season. Weekend Lone Star Conference games traditionally start at 2 p.m. on Saturday or Sunday.

“Our schedule is all over the place,” Jillson said. “We’ve played on Tuesday and some games on Wednesday and Thursday and then some on Saturday and Sunday. So there’s no type of consistency, which I think hurts our fan base. We’ve always played on Tuesday or Wednesday and then on Saturday at 2 p.m.

“So we’re going to try out this Sunday game and see how it goes.”

The game marks the second time in three weeks that TWU and Midwestern have played. The two teams met Jan. 2 in Wichita Falls in a makeup game that had been scheduled for Dec. 5 but was postponed because of weather conditions.


Freshmen have impact

Two freshmen made immediate impacts with their teammates and TWU coach Lisa Bowerman at last weekend’s season-opening meet at No. 13 Auburn.

Neither the opponent nor the fact that it was their first collegiate competition seemed to faze Carley Carter and Katie Simpson, who posted solid scores of 9.675 on balance beam and 9.600 on uneven bars, respectively.

“I could not have been more proud of them,” Bowerman said. “They were calm and confident. If nobody knew better, they would have thought they were juniors or seniors. They really looked experienced out there.”

Carter, a native of Oklahoma City, and Simpson, from Carlsbad, Calif., earned their starting assignments during preseason practice, Bowerman said. The coach said that she felt the two would give the Pioneers the best opportunity at scoring well in the two events.

“They’re still learning a lot and approaching every day wondering what’s new and what is there more to learn,” Bowerman said. “They were very impressive in our practices, and we were confident of their routines.

“They handled the situation as well as any veteran. I was very pleasantly surprised.”

Carter’s points on beam helped the Pioneers score their only event win of the meet. Senior Brittany Johnson placed second with a 9.800 as TWU won the event 48.425-47.650.

Home debut

The Pioneers will hold their first home meet of the season Saturday against Air Force in a 7 p.m. dual at Kitty Magee. TWU will hand out free magnetic schedules to the first 500 fans.

It will be the second meet of the year for both squads and the second road meet for Air Force. Air Force opened the season last weekend with a three-way meet at No. 14 Minnesota, placing second with a team score of 190.625 behind the Gophers and ahead of Lindenwood.

The Pioneers had a dual meet at Auburn, which won 194.875-189.825.