By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
Linden Weese knew his Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball team would have matchup problems against West Texas A&M Wednesday night.
Trying to minimize that, and stay out of foul trouble as well, the Zias went to a 2-3 zone for much of the game. But the Lady Buffs had more than enough answers, shooting 51 percent from the field and leading wire-to-wire in an 85-65 Lone Star Conference South Division victory at Greyhound Arena.
South preseason player of the year Emily Brister was held without a field goal (0-for-5) in the second half, but still finished with 20 points for the Lady Buffs (10-1, 2-0 South), ranked ninth in NCAA Division II. She got plenty of help from 6-foot-5 senior post Kalee Carey, who had 13 points and 12 rebounds, and guards Courtney Lee (19 points) and Natalie Wheeler (13).
“They’re just a good team,” Weese said. “There’s a reason they’re in the top 10.
“If you try to take something or someone away, someone else steps up for them.”
WT scored the game’s first five points and never trailed. Brister’s 3-pointer with nine seconds left made it 41-29 at halftime, capping a 9-2 run, and the margin never got under double digits after that.
“I was pleased with the way we moved the ball around and were patient,” first-year Lady Buffs coach Krista Gerlich said. “I told the girls that, instead of shooting on the first pass, to move the ball around a little bit.
“I thought Courtney Lee and Natalie Wheeler did a nice job of hitting some outside shots.”
In a 79-67 loss at Canyon last month, seniors Elizabeth Richards and Heather Brown combined for 40 points and kept the Zias (7-3, 0-2) in contention until late in the game.
This time, Richards finished with 13 points and Brown had 10.
“We were trying to pinpoint them a little bit,” Gerlich said. “Hopefully, our defense had something to do with it, but they did not score as well as they did in the first game.”
Brown came in averaging 17 points and Richards just under 12.
“Those two have carried us all year long,” Weese said. “We need someone else to step up and be able to help them.”
Senior guard Missy Kirkland picked up some of the slack for the Zias, finishing with 16 points and a team-best six rebounds. Junior forward Rochelle Vance added 10 points off the bench.
Trailing by 14 points with 15 minutes left, the Zias came out of their zone and WT took advantage to get to the line. The Lady Buffs, who came in shooting 64 percent from the line this season, scored only two field goals over the final 10 minutes, but converted 19-of-22 charity shots in that time.