By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (January 10, 2015) — Almost nothing went right for Tarleton State in the opening half at Wisdom Gym Saturday night.
After falling behind winless Texas A&M-Kingsville 30-23 in the closing seconds of the half, junior point guard Raven McGrath swished a half-court buzzer beater to make it a four-point game at the intermission.
Then the second half was another story, for the most part. McGrath’s triple to end the first half touched off a 24-8 run that opened up a 47-38 advantage for Tarleton, which went on to win 67-57.
Sophomore forward Ikpeaku Iwobi had her second straight big game with 15 points and 11 rebounds, her fifth career double-double. She almost doubled up twice on the week, finishing with nine points and 13 boards in Tarleton’s win at Angelo State on Wednesday.
“I’ve just been practicing extra hard, me and the whole team, because we know right now we have to be strong,” said Iwobi, a Houston product. “We know we can’t overlook any team, and the first half tonight showed that.”
It was Iwobi who put the TexAnns up for good on an old-fashion 3-point play for a 33-32 edge with 16:44 to play. Senior guard Kathy Thomas scored the next five, giving Tarleton eight straight points and a 38-32 lead.
Thomas had another layup then a steal that led to a jumper by Travanti Downes to give the TexAnns their largest advantage, 45-34, with 12:38 remaining.
Thomas scored 15 points, collected three steals and dealt three assists before fouling out with 2:31 remaining and the TexAnns ahead by eight. McGrath had 10 points, eight boards and three assists in 35 minutes of action.
A&M-Kingsville wouldn’t go away quietly, closing the gap to 61-59 on the strength of Micah Weaver’s 14 points and 13 from Lauren Jay.
The Javelinas trailed just 55-51 after a pair of Lauren Jay free throws with 5:30 still to go. Jay scored 13 points, while Micah Weaver led A&M-Kingsville with 14.
Tarleton answered with a 3-pointer by Bailey Wipff off a helper from McGrath, then Iwobi stepped up again with a steal and a transition jumper that made it 60-51. A Breanna Fuller free throw restored the double-digit lead at 61-51 with 3:40 left.
A&M-Kingsville got as close as six down the stretch, but Karli Moore pushed it back to eight with two free throws, and the advantage ultimately swelled to 67-57 on a pair of foul shots by Iwobi to end all the drama with 34 seconds on the clock.
Tarleton, which hosts Midwestern State at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, out-rebounded the Javs 37-30, while each team had 20 turnovers. A&M-Kingsville actually shot the ball better than the TexAnns, hitting 44.2 percent to Tarleton’s 41.8. Tarleton made up for it with eight-point advantages in both points in the paint and free throws. Tarleton was 17-24 from the stripe after hitting 14 of their first 18.
Notable: It was the first home game for Tarleton in 38 days, the longest such stretch since the year 2000.