Pioneers pull away from Zias in second half

By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers

Texas Woman’s Margaret Wimbish had a quiet first half — only one shot.

The 6-foot-1 junior post made plenty of noise after that, though, scoring 15 of her 17 points over the final 14 minutes to lift the Pioneers past sluggish Eastern New Mexico University 65-51 in a Lone Star Conference South Division women’s matchup Saturday night at Greyhound Arena.

Senior guard Courtney Colmer finished with three 3-pointers and 21 points for the Pioneers (11-9, 4-4 South), who erased a one-point deficit by holding ENMU scoreless for more than five minutes in a 16-0 run down the stretch.

Texas Woman’s shot 50 percent from the field in the second half, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range, and added 8-of-9 from the free throw line.

“Texas Woman’s hit shots when they needed to,” ENMU women’s coach Dan Buzard said. “They exploited our weaknesses.”

The Zias got 18 points from both senior post Tiana Bryant and junior guard Heather Brown, but only five field goals (in 28 attempts) from the rest of the squad. Bryant also finished with 10 rebounds, her second consecutive double-double and seventh of the season.

Still, Eastern led 46-45 with 6:23 left when Bryant and Erika Cook hit 3-pointers and Cook followed with a steal and layup, forcing the Pioneers into a timeout.

Wimbish answered with four free throws and took a lob feed for a layup and Colmer, who played all 40 minutes, followed with a 3-pointer and two free throws for a 10-point lead with 2:38 left.

“We were a little more patient in the second half in trying to get the ball to (Wimbish),” first-year Pioneers coach and former Texas Tech standout Rene Hanebutt said. “They did a good job in the first half in keeping her from scoring. That was probably the best anybody has defended against her this year.”

Buzard said the Pioneers have a solid 1-2 punch with Wimbish and Colmer.

“That’s two pretty good players,” he said. “They (Pioneers) handled the ball well down the stretch, and they made it difficult for us to catch up.”

The Zias struggled early, falling behind 27-15 before using an 11-0 run to get close just before halftime.

Hanebutt noted that with season-ending injuries to starters Elizabeth Richards and Riikka Lehtonen and key sub Rochelle Vance, the Zias sometimes have limited options.

“I’d like to see Eastern play with all of their players,” she said. “They’ve had to have some players step up that would’ve been role players for them.”

Buzard said the Zias have their work cut out on Monday when they conclude a five-game homestand against rival West Texas A&M in a 5:30 p.m. tipoff.

“We’ve just got to come out with the right mental attitude to face a hot WT team,” he said.