By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
With her team down 10 points, St. Edward’s women’s coach Jennifer White issued a challenge. Her team responded with a dominant second-half performance.
In a game of runs, the Hilltoppers made the final one, outscoring Eastern New Mexico University 20-2 to take control en route to a 60-52 victory Saturday night at Greyhound Arena.
Senior guard Jennifer Knight scored 27 points and sophomore post Tammy Bartosh added 16 points and 10 rebounds for St. Ed’s (3-4), which outscored the Zias 31-13 over the final 15 1/2 minutes.
“When we got down in the second half, we challenged our team,” White said. “We said, ‘It’s either do or die.’ I thought our team responded well.”
St. Ed’s, which has lost twice to Angelo State and beaten Abilene Christian and Southeastern Oklahoma in previous games against Lone Star Conference teams this season, won this game with its rebounding and with aggressive defense, White said.
“We haven’t played a team that’s not good,” she said. “I’m hoping that’ll help us when we get into (Heartland Conference) play.”
ENMU got a career-high 28 points from senior post Tiana Bryant on 12-of-19 shooting. Bryant finished one short of her high in rebounds, grabbing 15.
But the Zias, who edged Texas A&M-Commerce 66-63 at home on Thursday, are trying to adjust to playing without three regulars lost for the season to recent knee injuries. In addition, junior guard Missy Kirkland missed both games this weekend with an ankle injury suffered on Monday in practice.
ENMU coach Dan Buzard, though, gave credit to the Hilltoppers.
“I thought that team played hard and played well,” he said. “I thought they came out to win the game, and we just came out to play. We didn’t play with the heart or hustle we needed against a team that scrappy.”
The Zias answered an opening basket by St. Ed’s Sara Baca with 10 consecutive points before the Toppers countered with a 16-0 run over 8 1/2 minutes that featured consecutive 3-pointers by Bartosh, Baca and Knight.
Knight’s baseline shot with 3:51 left made it 25-21, but the Zias held St. Ed’s scoreless the rest of the half in building a four-point lead. Baskets by Bryant, Heather Brown and Brittney Gillespie when play resumed extended the run to 14-0 pushed the margin to 35-25 less than three minutes into the second half, and Bryant made it 39-29 with a driving shot at the 15:46 mark.
But the Zias struggled after that as the Toppers began to take away their top scoring options in Bryant and Brown, who finished with 12 points.
“He’s had injuries,” White said, referring to Buzard, “but their other kids that came in played great. When you have injuries like that, it’s hard.”
With finals scheduled this week, the Zias don’t play again until back-to-back games Dec. 19-20 at Alaska-Anchorage .
Buzard said he hopes to have Kirkland back by then.
“She’ll be able to help us,” he said. “She’ll give us more scoring and quickness.”