Zias peaking late

Suddenly a player in the battle for a Lone Star Conference tournament berth, Eastern New Mexico University's women looked like they might lay an egg Wednesday night.

The Zias shot 29 percent in the first half against Texas A&M-Kingsville, but still managed to do enough defensively to stay close. Then everything suddenly clicked.

CMI correspondent photo: Joshua Lucero

Zia freshman Jordyn Cooper takes a layup past Texas A&M Kingsville's Brittany Selby during the first half of the Zias Thursday night game against the Texas A&M Javelinas at Greyhound Arena. Cooper matched her season-high with 20 points in the Zias' 76-60 win.

ENMU shot a stunning 73 percent (22-of-30) in a 54-point explosion in the second half — all but two coming from four players — as the Zias (7-18, 6-11 LSC) pulled away from the Javelinas 76-60 at Greyhound Arena.

Texico freshman Jordyn Cooper went 4-for-4 from 3-point range — all in the second half when she scored 15 of her season-high-tying 20 points. Senior guard Hannah Altheide added 15 points, five assists and three steals.

Sophomore point guard Lakeeyscia Griffin added 13 points and seven assists, while senior guard Tara Johnson of Portales posted the team's first double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

"We kind of got into their game in the first half," Altheide said. "The second half we made the adjustments; we took our time and ran our lanes right."

The result was 16 assists on their 22 baskets, many of them layups.

The Zias, coming off a big road win at Texas Woman's that put them into the No. 8 seed for the tournament, took a long time to get going against the Javs (5-18, 3-14).

"We weren't very focused from the start," Zias coach Lindsey Wilson said. "We have to do better than that on our home court. We missed a lot of easy shots (early), and that was (lack of) focus."

Kingsville led 25-22 at the half, and extended that to 35-27 with 16:35 left on a basket by freshman guard Ashley Viera.

"The first half we were just kind of jacking it," Altheide said of the team's shot selection. 'The second half, we got more of the shots we wanted."

Cooper and guard Alexa Candelaria then hit 3-pointers that keyed a 10-0 spurt and put the Zias in front for the first time 49-42 with just over 10 minutes left.

"We got discouraged because we missed so many shots," said Kingsville coach Michael Trujillo, whose team finished at 36 percent for the game. "They did a good job of attacking our press. We just didn't do a good enough job on the defensive end."

Cooper added back-to-back 3s to extend the margin to 57-46 with eight minutes to go.

Cooper said defense helped turn it around.

"I think we just got on a run defensively," she said. "Everyone was doing a good job of finding us (for baskets.

"After the first couple of minutes (of the second half, we started doing what we know we can do. We played hard."

The win puts the Zias in strong position to earn a playoff berth with three games left. Two are at home, including Saturday's 4 p.m. tilt against Incarnate Word.

"That's a big game for us," Cooper said. "We just have to come in tomorrow and be ready for Saturday."

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