By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — The lid was on the basket early, but Eastern New Mexico University’s women relied on defense and rebounding to carry them Thursday night.
The Zias missed 18 of their first 19 shots from the field and fell behind 9-0 and 11-2, but they recovered to take an eight-point halftime lead and went on to thump Midwestern State 69-46 in a Lone Star Conference South Division women’s game at Greyhound Arena.
Senior guard Heather Brown converted five 3-pointers and scored 20 points while senior forward Elizabeth Richards coupled 17 points with 11 rebounds — her 13th double-double of the season — and five assists as the Zias (13-12, 4-9 South) assured themselves of at least a .500 season with one game remaining.
“We had a very rough start,” Brown said. “I think it was just nervousness (because) we want to come out of these last two games with wins.
“Once we got the lead, we stayed in control.”
Brown’s 3-pointer gave the Zias their first lead 14-13 with 8:28 left in the half.
Richards’ layup with 4:56 put ENMU in front for good and kicked off a half-ending 8-0 run for a 25-17 lead.
Brown finished the night 5-for-11 from the 3-point line.
“My 3s were right there (early); they just weren’t going in,” Brown said. “Coach (Linden) Weese just said, ‘Keep on shooting them.’”
ENMU shot 51 percent (17-of-33) in the second half while the Mustangs (12-13, 5-8) managed only 23 percent for the game.
The Zias’ biggest lead was 62-37 with less than five minutes left, at which point ENMU coach Linden Weese cleared his bench.
“Our defense and our rebounding saved us,” Weese said. “I told our kids it was a matter of pride, and we showed a lot of pride tonight. We got more aggressive and started getting to the free throw line.”
Juniors Brittni Burks and Stacey Staten led Midwestern with 12 points apiece.