By Dave Wagner
CMI sports writer
Coming in on a frustrating slide, Eastern New Mexico University’s women couldn’t have given a much better account of themselves on Saturday.
The Zias led all the way — until the final moments. Midwestern State took its first lead with under a minute left, then got a go-ahead driving layup by senior forward Andrea Carter with five seconds to go to pull out a 71-69 Lone Star Conference victory at Greyhound Arena.
ENMU (6-15, 4-8 LSC) had one final chance after a timeout as Lakeeyscia Griffin dribbled up the court and found sophomore guard Jaylyn Cooper for a 3-pointer from the left corner, but the shot was off the mark as time expired.
“We work on that play,” ENMU coach Joshua Prock said. “We got a great shot, but it just didn’t fall.”
Griffin got within shouting distance of a triple-double with a career-high 15 points, a game-high eight assists and six rebounds.
“I think this hurts more than to lose by 20 or 30 (points),” said Griffin, a point guard from El Paso. “To lose it like that, It’s kind of like a dagger through the heart.”
Still, for the Zias, who dropped their seventh in a row, it was an encouraging performance.
An active 2-3 zone bothered MSU (15-9, 7-6) much of the game. At the end, though, the Mustangs were able to dominate inside.
“We changed things up with the zone,” Prock said. “We didn’t take away the high post very well, but at the end of the day I was extremely proud of these kids.”
Junior Tori Tucker added 15 points and eight rebounds for the Zias, while sophomore Jordyn Cooper had 12 points and junior post Jasmine Johnson added 10.
ENMU had just nine players available. Senior guard Alexa Candelaria won’t play any more because of continuing knee issues, while junior guard Amber Williford also sat out with knee problems.
The relative lack of depth may have created some fatigue down the stretch.
“We had to be mentally tough and just play through it,” Griffin said. “I thought we were very mentally tough today.
“Coming off the last few losses, I worried about whether the girls would give up, but I thought we did an excellent job of executing.”
Mustangs coach Noel Johnson, whose team lost to the Zias at Greyhound Arena last year but won at home 75-44 in January, said she thought ENMU may have played its best game of the season.
“Coach Prock had his team ready to go,” she said. “They were hitting shots even when we were in their face.”
While Carter posted a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds, junior guard Lisa Hampton was probably as responsible as anyone for keeping the Mustangs in the game, going 4-for-7 from 3-point range in the second half.
“She had ice in her veins,” Johnson said. “For us to get back in it, she knew she had to be on.”
Most of the stats in the game were relatively even. The big difference came on the boards where the Mustangs posted a 43-30 edge — mostly in the second half — with a 15-7 margin in offensive rebounds.
Junior forward Lynn Lumpkin-Boozer added 12 points off the bench for MSU.