By Dave Wagner
CMI sports writer
For the second night in a row, Eastern New Mexico University’s women dug themselves an early hole. This time, they were unable to dig out of it.
Texas Woman’s opened a 14-2 lead less then six minutes into the game, then fought off the Zias with the help of a 23-for-24 performance from the foul line in the second half for a 78-66 Lone Star Conference victory on Thursday night at Greyhound Arena.
The loss ended a three-game winning streak for ENMU (6-9, 4-2 LSC) and dropped them into a tie for second place with Tarleton State, whom they visit on Saturday in their third game in four days.
Junior guard Barbara-Scott Kolb had three 3-pointers and 13 points to lead a balanced attack that saw eight Pioneers score six or more points. TWU (8-8, 4-3) held the Zias to 30 percent shooting (16-of-54), including 3-of-18 from 3-point range.
“They did a good job of taking advantage of our (early) mistakes,” ENMU coach Joshua Prock said. “We never could get over the hump.”
Back-to-back 3s by Kolb and senior guard Rebekah Cluley ended a 12-0 run after an early 2-2 tie, and the Zias were unable to get the margin under double figures until just over five minutes remained.
Three-pointers by junior forward Tori Tucker and sophomore guard Jordyn Cooper pulled the Zias to 70-64 with 2:49 to go, but the Pioneers — a 68 percent free throw team coming in — went 8-for-8 down the stretch to put it away.
“I just never felt comfortable with any type of lead,” Pioneers coach Beth Jillson said. “They have really good shooters, and one of our keys was to get out and guard them.
“I was really happy with the way we stepped up in the second half. You’ve got to be able to finish games.”
Sophomore post Nelsha Peterson scored a season-best 19 points for the Zias, shooting 5-of-6 from the field and 9-of-10 from the foul line. Tucker finished with 14 points for the Zias but had a tough night from the field, while junior Jasmine Johnson had a double-double with 12 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
“You have to give (Texas Woman’s) credit,” Prock said. “Their girls stepped up tonight. They did a fantastic job.
“We didn’t shoot the ball like we did (in Wednesday’s 90-76 win over Texas A&M-Commerce). I don’t feel like we forced a lot of shots; they just didn’t fall tonight.”
The win helps get the Pioneers back in the picture in the LSC race heading into a Sunday showdown against fourth-ranked West Texas A&M (14-1, 5-0) at home, where they are 6-0.
“Every game is so crucial,” Jillson said of conference play. “This conference is a battle every night. There aren’t any easy games.”