Eastern New Mexico University’s Rochelle Vance, left, tries to steal the ball from Southwestern Oklahoma’s Jenna Sprague during Thursday’s matchup at Greyhound Arena. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — It’s early in the season, but the Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball team might want to bottle the formula from Thursday’s Lone Star Conference crossover game against Southwestern Oklahoma.
The Zias clicked on all cylinders for much of the game and, with no one playing more than 24 minutes, cruised to a 79-50 victory over the Lady Bulldogs at Greyhound Arena.
Senior guard Heather Brown went 4-of-6 from 3-point range en route to 16 points, leading four players in double figures for ENMU (4-1). Senior guard Megan Ratliff added 13 points — one off her career high — while senior post Riikka Lehtonen scored 12 points and senior guard Missy Kirkland 10.
The Zias shot 53 percent from the field, including 9-of-16 from 3-point range, and went 20-of-23 from the free throw line.
Twelve of 14 players who saw action for ENMU scored.
“We’ve had a couple of good practices this week,” Kirkland said. “We’ve been getting a lot of shooting in, and our confidence is up.”
She said coach Linden Weese has stressed having faith in each other during the workouts.
“Coach Weese wanted us to make the extra pass and trust our teammates to make shots,” said Kirkland, who went 5-of-7 from the field and also contributed three assists, two steals and two rebounds.
Senior center Andrea Oldham scored 17 points for the Lady Bulldogs (2-4), but 10 of them came in the final six minutes. Guard Grace Anne Jones added 11 points.
The game was tied briefly 6-6 early, but the Zias quickly took off. A 22-7 run that featured 3-pointers by Brown and freshman Megan Kabrick pushed the lead to 16 points with 2 1/2 minutes left in the half, and the Zias led 36-20 at the break.
Things didn’t change much after that. A basket by Ashley Davis gave ENMU its biggest lead at 73-34 with 5:46 left, and the Zias cruised from there.
“We kind of challenged our post kids,” Weese said. “We needed to get more production from them, and I think they delivered.”
Lehtonen did her damage, including 8-of-9 free throws, in just 16 minutes. Freshman post Kristal Hill added seven rebounds in 13 minutes off the bench, sharing team honors in that category with fellow reserve Rochelle Vance.
ENMU had only three offensive rebounds in the contest, but then the Zias didn’t miss many shots.
“I thought it would be a lot closer ballgame, but our kids just shot it so well,” Weese said. “We just executed really well tonight.”
ENMU turned the tables on the Lady Bulldogs, who routed the Zias in last year’s early-season matchup in Weatherford, Okla.
“I thought it was going to be a competitive game,” Kirkland said. “We take a lot of pride in playing well at home. We want to give our fans their money’s worth.”