By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
Playing shorthanded, Eastern New Mexico’s women did what was necessary.
Junior guard Ashley Sutton hit a go-ahead 3-pointer from the key with 27 seconds left and the Zias held on for a 66-63 win over Texas A&M-Commerce Thursday night at Greyhound Arena.
The Zias (6-1), who have lost three key inside players to knee injuries over the past couple of weeks, got 23 points from junior guard Heather Brown and 16 points from senior post Tiana Bryant. They also received solid efforts from a number of role players, including first-time starter Brittney Gillespie with a team-high eight rebounds.
“We were underdogs, but we stayed up and played a great basketball game,” ENMU women’s coach Dan Buzard said. “Our kids showed a lot of heart tonight.”
ENMU took a two-point lead into halftime and built a 10-point lead with five minutes left on Bryant’s 3-pointer from the right wing, but Commerce ran off 12 consecutive points and went in front 61-59 on Kanani Marshall’s backcourt steal and layup with two minutes left.
Erika Cook hit two free throws to tie it, and after an exchange of turnovers, Sutton buried the go-ahead 3-pointer from the right of the key.
“Ashley’s a good shooter,” said Brown, who went 3-for-3 from 3-point range and made 8-of-10 free throws, including two with nine seconds left. “When it goes up, there’s a good chance she’ll make it.”
Brown herself missed a couple of games and has been slowed since by an ankle injury, but she said she felt good.
“The past three games, I had been struggling, but tonight I finally got in a groove,” she said. “I felt really comfortable tonight.
“Everybody stepped up. We had people coming off the bench and making big shots.”
Sophomore post Katedria Mosley led the Lions (4-3) with 20 points and 14 rebounds, but coach Denny Downing said his team simply didn’t play well enough to win.
“You can’t spot good teams and good coaches points on their home floor,” said Downing, whose team has also lost some key players this season to injury. “We didn’t come ready to play tonight at all. We didn’t play with a sense of urgency.”
The Zias fell behind 5-0, but scored the next seven points as Commerce went more than 5 1/2 minutes without scoring.
Neither team could get much going on offense in the first half, but ENMU was able to keep it close and emerged with a 24-22 halftime lead by scoring three baskets in the last 40 seconds.
Except for the Lions’ 5-0 start, neither team led by more than four points for the rest of the half.
Trailing by three, Commerce got a 3-point play by Mosley and baskets from Rashida Wilson and Andrea Lewis to move in front 22-18 with 2:50 left in the half. But the Lions were scoreless the rest of the period.
Brown drove the lane to score with 36 seconds left, then freshman guard Lindsey Wood stole the inbounds pass and converted it into a basket. A loose ball ensued on Commerce’s possession, and Eastern’s Erika Cook was able to shovel it ahead to Wood for a layup with six seconds to go.