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Notebook: TWU enjoying week off after long road trip

After splitting a pair of games during its first Lone Star Conference road trip of the season, the TWU basketball team has the week off to focus on finals as the semester draws to a close.

The team doesn't return to game action until 7 p.m. Tuesday against Northeastern State. That matchup will be the final contest of 2017 for the Pioneers before the team returns to LSC play in early January.

For now, TWU is focusing on finishing the semester on a strong note academically while using the time off to recover from a long road trip.

"We're practicing but just really short and sweet," TWU coach Beth Jillson said. "We'll start to pick it up on Wednesday because most of them will be done with finals. I'm glad we don't have any games this week so we're able to focus on academics, especially after a long road trip."

The Pioneers struggled in the opening game of that road trip, falling to No. 3 West Texas A&M 81-61 on Thursday. But the team bounced back with a 78-61 win against Texas-Permian Basin on Saturday, improving to 5-4 on the year and 2-2 in conference.

It was a career-best night for several of the TWU players. Grace Mitchell scored 27 points and tallied 15 rebounds to go with five assists. KJ Stastny had 18 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, falling just short of a triple-double in the win.

Cienna Rodriguez played a team-high 35 minutes as the point guard and finished with seven points and five assists without turning the ball over. TWU is now 2-0 in conference play when Rodriguez doesn't have a turnover.

"We played well together and it was very fun to watch," Jillson said. "It was a credit to how well the chemistry was. We need to build on that. We've had moving parts and moving pieces, so the chemistry was a step in the right direction."

Although the Pioneers are back over the .500 mark on the season, they have yet to string together consecutive wins since winning three straight to open the year. 

TWU has played well at times against some of the top opponents on its schedule, but it still is searching for the consistency that will allow it to compete near the top of the LSC.

The Pioneers will look to use the next week of practice to take strides toward that point before taking on Northeastern State. TWU will then have more than two full weeks without a game before returning to LSC play Jan. 4.

"It's really important that your players are committed and doing the little things in the gym and the weight room to stay conditioned over the break," Jillson said. "When we come back, we go on the road right away. It's tough."