By Dave Wagner, Freedom New Mexico
A hot hand early and some toughness late helped the Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball team snap out of a nine-game losing streak Saturday night.
The Zias knocked 13-of-28 shots from 3-point range — including seven of their first eight — and held on late for 66-60 Lone Star Conference South Division victory over Texas A&M-Kingsville at Greyhound Arena.
Freshman guard Patricia Malouff scored 20 points, hitting 4-of-6 on 3-pointers, and added six rebounds and three assists as the Zias (4-17, 1-7 South), who never trailed but saw Kingsville tie the game late, pulled into a tie in the standings with the Javelinas (5-16, 1-7).
“It was a huge win for us,” said Malouff, who added that it was probably her best overall game of the season. “It’s one of the best feelings in the world. Our girls handled the pressure tonight.
“We’ve been through some rocky points, but these girls have more heart than anybody I know.”
Freshman guard Lacey Acker added four 3-pointers for 12 points off the bench, freshman point guard Tori Northcutt chipped in 12 points and five assists and sophomore forward Megan Kabrick added three 3-pointers and 11 points.
“Everybody played well,” ENMU coach Linden Weese said. “It was a different situation for us tonight — we hadn’t played (to protect) the lead that often.
“I thought they hung in there and handled it well.”
Weese said he thought Malouff might be about due for a breakout game.
“I told coach Durrett (assistant Austin) at the shootaround this morning, ‘I think she’s about ready to go off,’” Weese said. “She made a large 3 late (to give the Zias some breathing room). And she did a good job on the Taylor kid (Kayla, Kingsville’s point guard, holding her to four points). That was huge.”
Senior forward Lana Toki tried to keep the Javs in the game, finishing with 25 points and 15 rebounds, but she got little help as no one else reached double figures for Kingsville.
Kabrick’s 3-pointer broke a 2-2 tie early and the Zias went on to build a 27-16 lead late in the half. Kingsville cut it to 27-22 before sophomore guard Vanessa O’Neal chased down a deflection into the backcourt and fired the ball ahead to Malouff, who banked in a 3-pointer with the shot clock running out.
Acker’s 3-pointer with five seconds left made it 39-31 at halftime.
ENMU maintained the lead until about midway through the second half, when Kingsville’s LaKeisha Jones hit back-to-back jumpers and Toki scored on a drive to tie it 53-53. Kara Bible’s free throw put the Zias in front, then Malouff scored on a left-wing jumper and Kabrick buried a 3-pointer from the right wing.
Kingsville closed to 59-58, but Malouff hit a 3-pointer from the left wing and the Javs were never closer than four after that.
“I was a little bit nervous,” Malouff said of the latter part of the game. “The intensity was high on the court, but the girls handled it well.
“The coaches tell me they believe in me. Sometimes I really don’t show them that much, but when they believe in you, you have to do something.”
Lone Star Conference South
ENMU 66, Texas A&M-Kingsville 60
Texas A&M-Kingsville (5-16, 1-7) — Lana Toki 8-15 6-11 25, LaKeisha Jones 4-10 1-2 9, Kayla Naylor 2-7 0-2 4, Dyana Bullinger 3-10 0-0 7, Felicia Soza 3-11 0-0 7, Sandra Maldonado 0-1 2-2 2, Reagan Sutton 0-2 0-1 0, Ali Scott 3-6 0-0 6. Totals 23-62 9-18 60.
Eastern New Mexico (4-17, 1-7) — Megan Kabrick 4-10 0-0 11, Kara Bible 1-3 4-8 6, Til-Lois Fifer 1-6 0-0 2, Patricia Malouff 7-15 2-3 20, Tori Northcutt 4-9 2-4 12, Vanessa O’Neal 0-0 0-0 0, Stephanie Bailey 0-0 1-2 1, Taylor Sauer 0-0 2-2 2, Lacey Acker 4-9 0-0 12. Totals 21-52 11-19 66.
Halftime — Eastern New Mexico 39, Texas A&M-Kingsville 31. 3-pointers — Texas A&M-Kingsville 5-20 (Toki 3-5, Soza 1-3, Bullinger 1-5, Jones 0-1, Scott 0-2, Naylor 0-4), Eastern New Mexico 13-28 (Malouff 4-6, Acker 4-9, Kabrick 3-8, Northcutt 2-5). Rebounds — Texas A&M-Kingsville 45 (Toki 15), Eastern New Mexico 34 (Malouff 6). Assists — Texas A&M-Kingsville 9 (Scott 4), Eastern New Mexico 14 (Northcutt 5). Total fouls — Texas A&M-Kingsville 20, Eastern New Mexico 15. Fouled out — Bullinger. A — 215.