By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico
Texas A&M-Commerce lived by the three. But Ashley Murphy made sure the Zias died by the two.
Murphy scored on a point-blank bucket as time expired, lifting the Lions to a 68-67 in a Lone Star Conference women’s crossover game Saturday at Greyhound Arena.
The Lions (3-4) led for all but about two minutes, but trailed twice in the final 33 seconds as the Zias rallied from down 11 in the second half.
Genevieve Campbell had 18 points to lead four Lions in double figures, and hit six of Commerce’s 11 3-pointers on the night.
But there was no doubt the Lions would go inside after Cat Clay’s driving jumper put the Zias up 67-66 with nine seconds to play. And Commerce coach Nicole Anderson said there was no doubt the ball would go to Murphy, a 5-foot-11, fifth-year senior forward.
“She has played in this league and this conference for a while, and she told me she wanted the ball,” Anderson said. “I’m very confident in her. She’s patient offensively, always.”
Murphy scored the Lions’ final two baskets, the first on a driving jumper after an Alex Ortiz trey gave the Zias their first lead of the night with 33 seconds left. On her final basket, she took the ball with just under three seconds left, threw up a pump fake and slipped past a double-team for the unchallenged basket as the buzzer sounded to snap a three-game Zias win streak.
“It was going to come down to who was going to make the last play,” Zias coach Linden Weese said, “and they made it.”
Weese said that Commerce, which for most of the game has the majority of its offense come from beyond the arc, hadn’t shot that well all season. Anderson said it was just a matter of time for Campbell.
“Gen was due to hit some shots,” Anderson said. “We knew eventually she was going to start shooting better.”
Nakazi Glover and Mattilyn McIntyre each added 13 for the Lions. Clay led the Zias with 22 points to go with a game-high 11 boards, but needed 20 shots to get there. That was a pattern, as the Zias shot under 30 percent for much of the game before getting hot down the stretch to make the comeback.
“I was really proud of them for coming back,” said Weese, who added that the Zias also eliminated most of an 11-point Lions lead late in the first half. “They didn’t just come back once, they came back twice.”
That’s exactly what the Lions wanted to avoid.
“Our kids are learning how to win,” Anderson said. “That takes time. I told them we need to get out of the habit of giving up a nice lead. We need to be better.”
Til-Lois Fifer and Tori Northcutt each had 12 points for the Zias, while Northcutt added seven assists and six rebounds.
The Zias are home again on Monday to face Texas Woman’s in another crossover.