By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (January 20, 2016) — For the second straight game, Tarleton State saw a double-digit lead slowly evaporate. But this time, the TexAnns had an answer.
Bailey Wipff buried three of four free throws and Tiara Tatum hit a pair from the foul stripe to give the TexAnns the final five points in a 56-51 win over Eastern New Mexico at Wisdom Gym.
The win was the 18th straight against ENMU for Tarleton, and restores some Lone Star Conference momentum to the TexAnns before they visit highly touted West Texas A&M at 2 p.m. Saturday in Canyon. The loss was the fifth in six games for Eastern New Mexico.
The points by Wipff and Tatum weren’t the only keys down the stretch. Raven McGrath battled for a defensive rebound and was awarded a tie-ball call with the possession arrow in Tarleton’s favor. That set up the possession that ended with Wipff being fouled late in the shot clock and hitting two free throws to take the lead for good.
Then, with Tarleton leading by four, Wipff grabbed a defensive board with six seconds remaining. She hit one of two free throws to finish with 17 points, her seventh double-digit performance in eight games.
Wipff talks about the win here:
Tarleton needed the late free throws – and stops – because Eastern New Mexico wiped out a double digit first half deficit to tie the game 40-40 after three quarters, then erased a seven-point deficit in the fourth.
A Breanna Fuller layup in the paint with assist from Travanti Downes opened up a 46-40 lead for Tarleton, and after ENMU answered at the other end, Tatum hit perhaps the biggest field goal of her Tarleton career, a right wing 3-pointer off a helper from McGrath that made it 49-42.
Sarah Stinnett, who led all scorers with 18, fueled a 9-2 ENMU run, including a pull-up jumper in transition to even the score at 51-51.
Fuller scored nine points and grabbed eight boards, one of the senior center’s best games at Tarleton. Tatum finished with seven after her five points in the clutch.
Tarleton head coach Misty Wilson discusses the victory here:
Mikaehla Connor scored nine for ENMU, but Stinnett was the only Greyhound to consistently hurt the TexAnns.
Tarleton started on a 10-0 run behind 3-pointers by Wipff and Ashmore. Wipff took a kick out pass from Fuller and buried hers from the left corner moments after Ashmore launched one just as the shot clock expired that banked in as she turned and shrugged and toward the TexAnn bench.
It took Eastern New Mexico most of four minutes to get on the board as the Greyhounds began with five turnovers and two missed shot attempts on their initial seven possessions.
But Tarleton did not make another 3-pointer before intermission, missing six straight. Connor had eight points and Stinnett seven before the break as ENMU clawed to within 30-28 at halftime. The Greyhounds tied the game at 32-32 on a bucket in the paint by Stinnett early in the third and presumed to lead by as many as three, 38-35, late in the period.
Tarleton scored five of the final seven in the third, deadlocking the game entering the fourth.
ENMU returns home to Portales, NM, and hosts A&M-Commerce at 2 p.m. Saturday.