Division-leading TexAnns cruise past Zias

CNJ staff

STEPHENVILLE, Texas — Tarleton State’s women scored the game’s first 17 points Saturday and never looked back in routing Eastern New Mexico University 97-58 in Lone Star Conference South Division action.

The TexAnns (19-2, 9-0 South) extended their winning streak to nine games and now have the best 21-game start in the program’s history. All 13 Tarleton players scored with six in double figures, led by center Kelsey Benford with 17, guard Sonya Sundberg with 13 and forward Brittnie Haley with 11.

Three players came off the bench for 10 points apiece — Tomika Lynce, Brianna Bledsoe and Jordyn Johnson.

The division-leading TexAnns struggled in the first meeting against the Zias in Portales, not nailing down a 65-59 win until the final seconds.

Senior guard Vanessa O’Neal of Clovis went 5-for-7 from the floor and finished with 12 points, but no one else scored more than six. O’Neal also led the team with five rebounds and was one of three Zias with two assists.

Meantime, Tarleton’s defense held ENMU to just three first-half field goals — in 16 attempts — in building a 41-17 halftime lead.

Assistant coach Chris Ward ran the team in the absence of head coach Linden Weese, who did not make the trip due to an undisclosed illness, according to the school.

Sophomore guard Kiara Tate put the Zias on the board with two free throws at the 13:52 mark of the first half, and junior guard Kiara Tate knocked down a 3-pointer after a steal to make it 17-5.

Jade Brown converted a layup with 11:01 to go in the half to make it 17-9, but the Zias went the rest of the period without a field goal. They were as close as they were because of 10-of-12 shooting from the free throw line.

The Zias warmed up considerably in the second half, going 15-for-28 from the floor for 54 percent, but they never made a serious dent in the margin. They were outrebounded by the TexAnns 32-20 and were guilty of 27 turnovers.

Meantime, Tarleton shot 61 percent overall, including 14-of-20 in the second half when they outscored ENMU 56-41. The TexAnns also went 28-for-37 from the foul line in the final 20 minutes.