By Kevin Wilson
The Zias had the game they wanted to start January — a home matchup against a 1-7 squad. In the end, Eastern New Mexico’s offense couldn’t seal the deal.
Randi Wilson had 14 to lead three players in double figures, and Monica Sanders sparked a game-ending 11-2 run as Southeastern Oklahoma upset Eastern New Mexico 61-54 in a Lone Star Conference crossover game Saturday at Greyhound Arena.
The Zias (4-6) did get a game-high 22 points from sophomore Elizabeth Richards, but the combination of an ankle injury that sidelined Kristi McGuire and a 1-of -14 night fromleading scorer Laci Lee gave the visiting Lady Savages (2-7) a chance to pull off the upset.
“What I thought won the game was our defense,” Lady Savages coach Nick Keith said. “Laci Lee is a heck of a player and she didn’t get anything tonight. We played a matchup zone and that was the best we’ve played it all year.”
The Zias struggled against the zone and compounded those troubles with a 1-of-10 night from 3-point range. Southeastern, meanwhile, hit 5-of -13 from the arc, with three of those giving the Lady Savages in a back-and-forth that featured 11 lead changes in the second half.
“I think they hit every shot they needed to,” Zia coach Dan Buzard said. “They hit big shots when they needed to. They came out and got after us and we didn’t respond the way we needed to.”
Richards kept the Zias in the game throughout, with shots ranging from simple baseline jumpers to off-balance layups on the fast break. Richards went 10-of-15 from the floor and also tied Lee for a game-high eight rebounds.
Jereena Bosket and Loren Scarlet added 10 each for the Zias, but the other five players who saw minutes for Eastern combined to score 12 points on 4-of-28 shooting, and had 17 of ENMU’s 23 turnovers.
“We didn’t have anybody else step up on the offensive end,” Buzard said. “E (Richards) tried to, but we had a lot of empty trips on offense.”
Buzard didn’t want to reduce the game to a thin backcourt, as Lee ended up with three after scoring a career-high 27 two games ago against West Texas A&M (Dec. 16).
“She’s going to have those games sometimes, and we can’t let her carry us with 25 a night,” Buzard said. “We have some players that can step up, but we’re not doing it on a consistent level.”
Eastern still held a lead late in a tight contest, as a pair of Richards free throws put the Zias up 52-50 with 3:20 to play. Southeastern responded, as Sanders hit jumpers on consecutive possessions to give the Lady Savages the lead for good.
Richards hit a 7-foot jumper to pull the Zias to within three, 57-54 with :28 to play. However, the Zias were forced to foul Jessica Hocker on consecutive possessions to stop the clock. Hocker, 85.7 percent from the line coming into the game, hit all four to seal the win.
The Zias return to action Monday, hosting East Central in another LSC crossover game. Southeastern also plays Monday, facing West Texas A&M on the road.