By BRAD KEITH
(January 3, 2014) — There is just something about Denton’s Kitty McGee Arena that doesn’t agree with Tarleton State.
The TexAnns (6-3, 0-1) dropped their second straight and fell for the 10th time in 18 visits to McGee Arena Saturday, when they shot a season-low 31.1 percent in a 63-54 loss to Texas Woman’s (8-5, 1-1).
It was the Lone Star Conference opener for the TexAnns and the first LSC game as head coach for Tarleton’s Misti Wilson, previously a star player and long-time assistant for the TexAnns. It certainly wasn’t the LSC opener Wilson envisioned for her team, as they also shot just 21.4 percent from the arc and 65 percent from the foul stripe while being out-rebounded 45-34.
Kenesha Saygo led all scorers with 16 points for TWU, which avoided an 0-2 start to conference play after dropping its opener at Midwestern State, 61-47, on Thursday. Texas Woman’s shot 41.2 percent from the floor and made 80 percent of its free throws, winning despite 21 turnovers and hitting just one 3-point shot.
Erin Maxwell had a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Pioneers, who also picked up 11 points and seven boards from Emily Spector, their leading scorer on the season.
Both offenses were misfiring in a first half that ended in a 25-25 tie. Even TWU shot just 34.8 percent in the opening 20 minutes before knocking down 46.4 percent after the intermission, when the Pioneers outscored Tarleton 38-29.
Specter drained a 3-pointer with for a 30-27 edge with 18:29 remaining, and the Pioneers never trailed again.
Tarleton went 5:02 without a field goal and didn’t score at all for 4:28 following a pair of free throws, and TWU took full advantage. A layup by Ikpeaku Iwobi cut the TWU lead to 33-31 with 16:45 to go. It was a two-point deficit again following a pair of Tarleton free throws by Travanti Downes, but that was their last points until a layup by Kathy Thomas layup with 11:43 left.
Following the Downes free throws, a basket by Maxwell, a free throw by Morgan Easley and four straight points by Saygo gave TWU a 42-33 advantage.
A Maxwell layup with 8:45 remaining made it 48-36, and though the TexAnns scored five straight on a 3-pointer by Bailey Wipff and a jumper by Downes, they trailed by at least five the rest of the way.
Thomas converted a driving layup to make it 56-51 with 1:43 still to play, but Barbara-Scott Kolb hit a basket and Saygo drained four straight free throws to put it out of reach.
The TexAnns are 27-12 all-time against TWU, but 17 of those wins and just two losses have come in Stephenville’s Wisdom Gym. Tarleton is 2-0 against the Pioneers in a neutral-court setting, struggling against them only at McGee Arena. Even when they had Daktronics National Player of the Year Kiara Wright and reached the second round of the South Central Region Championship last year, the TexAnns lost in Denton, 64-59.
Now it’s Tarleton’s turn to try avoiding an 0-2 start in the LSC. The TexAnns visit Angelo State at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Junnell Center in San Angelo.
TWU visits Texas A&M-Kingsville Wednesday, also at 6 p.m.