By Dave Wagner
CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — The Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball team had a chance to put together a three-game winning streak heading into the holiday break, but the Zias ran into a wall.
ENMU (2-6) led 83-75 before Wayland Baptist ran off the final 17 points of their Dec. 13 matchup in Plainview, Texas, ending the Zias’ two-game mini-winning streak.
They return to action on Monday at Greyhound Arena against Lubbock Christian (10-1), which beat the Zias 101-66 to open the season in November at Lubbock. On Wednesday, the Zias host Cameron in the first of 16 consecutive Lone Star Conference clashes.
“We’ve had games we felt like we could’ve won, and should’ve won,” first-year coach Joshua Prock said. “But realistically, we play … Lubbock Christian and then we start back 0-0 (in the LSC).”
The Zias expect to get senior guard Alexa Candelaria back from eligibility issues this week, and hope to add junior guard Ashlee Pierson of Clovis soon. Pierson, the team’s top returning scorer from last year (7.2 ppg), went down late in the season with a knee injury.
The record isn’t where they’d like it to be, but Prock believes the schedule has prepared the Zias for league play.
“We’ve probably played as tough a schedule as anybody in the Lone Star Conference,” he said. “But the Lone Star is tough, so you’ve got to get prepared for it.”
Junior forward Jasmine Johnson of DeSoto, Texas, said the Zias are anxious to get going.
“We’ve got to defend our home court,” said Johnson, averaging 8.4 ppg and 4.6 rpg. “We’ve just got to work hard and be ready for it.”
While the Zias have a few new faces this season, many of their players have already experienced the LSC and that should help, Johnson said.
“I think we’re really ready for conference,” she said. “We’re kind of like the underdog, but this team has confidence in each other.
“I think (having experience in the LSC) will be good for us.”
Prock knows the Zias will have their work cut out in the rugged LSC, but they can build off home upsets last season of Midwestern State and Abilene Christian, who finished 1-2 in the league.
“I saw Midwestern and they’re really good, and WT (West Texas A&M) and Tarleton (State) are both playing well,” he said. “But our girls will tell you we’re more worried about ourselves than who we’re playing.”
Scoring leader: Jordyn Cooper 10.5 ppg
Rebound leader: Tori Tucker 6.6 rpg
Assist leader: Lakeeyscia Griffin 4.9 apg
ZIAS BASKETBALL CAPSULE
Lubbock Christian (10-1) at ENMU (2-6)
When: 6:30 p.m. Monday at Greyhound Arena.
Radio: KSEL-FM 105.9
Last meeting: Nov. 12, the Lady Chaps routed ENMU 101-66 at Lubbock in the regular-season opener for both teams.
Last time out: The Zias lost to Wayland Baptist 92-83 on Dec. 13 at Plainview, Texas, as the Pioneers scored the game’s final 17 points.
Of note: LCU has won eight in a row since its only loss, a 95-83 decision at Tarleton State on Nov. 16. … The school is in the first of a two-year transition period from the Sooner Athletic Conference and the NAIA to the Heartland Conference and NCAA Division II. … Coach Steve Gomez, an LCU grad, is in his 11th season at the school and is 244-97. He led the Lady Chaps to 10 consecutive NAIA tournament berths. … … ENMU is unbeaten at home (2-0). … Nine of the 10 Zias to have seen action this season have fouled out once . The only player who hasn’t been DQed is junior G Cassidy Doherty … The Zias are shooting 75 percent from the free throw line and have four players with at least 10 attempts above 70 percent, including junior PG Lakeeyscia Griffin (17-for-17) and junior F Tori Tucker (10-for-10). … Lubbock Christian has had the same starters for all 11 games and all average in double figures, led by 5-foot-10 junior G Nicole Hampton (15.5 ppg), 5-9 senior F Emily Poole (14.2) and 5-8 junior G Haley Burton (14.1). … The Lady Chaps are averaging 88.4 ppg and allowing 66 ppg. They’re shooting just under 50 percent as a team while hitting 40 percent of their 3-point attempts (100-for-250) and 77 percent of their FT attempts (210-for-272).
— Compiled by Dave Wagner