STEPHENVILLE — TWU used defense and efficiency at the free throw line to open Lone Star Conference play Saturday with a 63-55 overtime victory against Tarleton.
“I am so proud of the comeback, our grit and our guts down the stretch to get this overtime win,” coach Beth Jillson said. “It took huge defensive stops, taking some charges and making our free throws at the end to beat Tarleton on their home court.”
TWU (3-1, 1-0 Lone Star) began the contest by shooting 58.3% to Tarleton’s 31.3% in the first period to go up 15-10. Brielle Woods led the Pioneer offense hitting all three of her field goal attempts as TWU was 7 for 12 overall.
In the second quarter, the Pioneers stretched their lead to as much as nine at 20-11 after Carissa Moody hit a three-pointer from the top of the arc at 8:20. But the momentum shifted as TWU went cold without scoring a field goal for the rest of the period while the Texans went on a 6-0 run. Moody’s free throw with a little over three minutes left made the score 21-17. Tarleton (4-1, 0-1 LSC) took the lead at 23-21 and then added a pair of layups to go into halftime ahead, 27-21.
“We just had a hard time trying to get into an offense and we struggled with their pressure,” Jillson said. “Their offensive rebounds really hurt us too along with our cold shooting.”
The Texans continued where they left off and built a nine-point lead halfway through the third when they made a layup on a fast break after a Pioneer turnover. With four and half minutes remaining, a TWU shooting foul sent Tarleton to the line where they made one to extend the lead the largest of the game at 37-27.
Then the Pioneers flipped the switch and charged back, slowly chipping away at the deficit. With both teams turning the ball over and Moody adding a block, TWU put together a 9-0 run. Sadie Moyer drained a three from the left side with 38 seconds on the clock to pull to within one at 37-36. Tarleton made a free throw to end the quarter up on TWU, 38-36.
“Offensively we just started to settle down and we were much more efficient at sharing the ball,” Jillson explained. “We were able to convert on the other end as well after getting some steals.”
The fourth period saw TWU turn up the defensive effort. After pulling even at 38 on a Moody layup, it was a back-and-forth affair with the Pioneers denying the Texans any chance to gain momentum. London Archer got the defensive rebound from a missed free throw, and then made a layup with 1:04 left to tie the game again at 51. Neither team could score to break the stalemate which sent the game into overtime.
In the extra frame, Ma’K’La Woods got a basket in the paint to put TWU up, 53-51, but TSU sunk a pair of free throws to tie it again. Ma’K’La Woods then hit a jumper to make it, 55-53, and the Pioneers sealed the 63-55 victory by making all eight of their free throws.
“The huge key for us was defense,” Jillson said. “You hear me say that a lot that defense is the key to winning games. We forced 27 turnovers and they went 0 for 6 in the overtime.”
Brielle Woods led all players with 19 points on 7 of 11 shooting. Ma’K’La Woods added 16 points and Moody recorded her second double-double of the young season with 10 points and 12 rebounds. TWU ended the night with a 48% field goal percentage and a 76.5% free throw percentage (7-12).
“Brielle [Woods] did a great job on offense and was part of the turnaround in the third, took a huge charge at the end of regulation, and was clutch on free throws in the overtime,” Jillson added.
The win gives TWU a 1-0 start to the conference schedule and hands Tarleton its first loss of the year in front of a crowd of 1,314.
“Their gym was packed and it was a great environment,” Jillson said. “We were actually prepared for this after playing at Northeastern State which had a very loud and rowdy crowd as well.”
The Pioneers head to Ada, Okla., on Wednesday for a non-conference tilt with East Central at 3 p.m. It will be the third game of a five-game road swing.