By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (February 1, 2015) — Super Sunday meant bounce back Sunday for Tarleton State, and the TexAnns did just that in a game full of excitement America and the World can only hope will be replicated on the football field this evening.
Less than 24 hours after suffering a tough road loss and with star guard Kathy Thomas having been helped off the court late in regulation, Tarleton rallied together and finished 23-26 from the free throw line for a 82-76 overtime win over Texas Woman’s at Wisdom Gym Sunday afternoon.
The victory moves the TexAnns (12-6, 5-4) ahead of the Pioneers (12-9, 5-5) into fifth in the Lone Star Conference. They also split their regular-season series, with Tarleton avenging a 63-54 road loss on January 3 in Denton.
“This was a huge win, especially with the back-to-back because you can’t lose both and you have to defend your home court,” said Tarleton first-year head coach Misty Wilson.
Raven McGrath used a ball fake to drive past a defender then knocked down a short running jump shot while being fouled with 1:41 left in overtime. The ensuing free throw made it 74-71, and Tarleton was ahead the rest of the way.
“That was a huge play. We saw that opportunity several times at the end and that’s why we went to the weave,” said first-year Tarleton head coach Misty Wilson. “We were trying to turn the corner then attack the big girl off the dribble, and Raven executed it really well.
Well enough to make the biggest play of the game, and arguably the shot – and free throw – that determined the outcome.
“And-1’s always get you excited in any game, no matter what it is,” said McGrath. “I just saw an opening, went for the shot and got fouled. It was a big play because it really got us going in overtime.”
Tarleton got a defensive stop with 5-5 guard Morgan Ashmore fighting for a key rebound, then McGrath was fouled and hit a pair to make it 76-71 with 36 seconds left. Ashmore followed with a pair from the line, then Bailey Wipff hit four straight as the TexAnns knocked down their final seven attempts from the stripe.
McGrath finished with 12 points, seven of them in the overtime. Bailey Wipff scored 15 including her four OT free throws. Ikpeaku Iwobi also had 12 for the TexAnns.
Tarleton had to fight of a 28-point performance by sophomore guard Kenesha Saygo, who was joined in double figures by Erin Maxwell and Ashley Salazar with 12 each and Emily Spector with 10.
“She’s so athletic,” McGrath said of Saygo, who did the majority of her scoring on aggressive dribble drives. “That’s just a terribly athletic team, and it was tough. Coach Wilson kept telling us the tougher team was going to win, so we got tough.”
Both teams survived nine ties and nine lead changes over the final 9:25 of regulation just to get to overtime. The game was back and forth after a 9-0 Texas Woman’s run that evened it up at 35-35 early in the second half. Total, there were 13 ties and 13 lead changes.
Iwobi gave Tarleton its last lead of regulation, 67-65, on an offensive rebound and put back with 1:18 left. At the other end, an acrobatic tip-in by Salazar tied it once more.
Thomas was injured when she was fouled in the backcourt with 37 seconds remaining. She was helped off the floor by head coach Misty Wilson and a student athletic trainer after scoring nine points and collecting four rebounds, three assists and a steal. Following the game, Wilson said she did not believe the senior guard was seriously injured.
“It was a very physical game,” commented Wilson. “It was almost like a rugby match at times.”
Ashmore attacked the basket in the closing seconds of the shot clock and game, but was blocked not once, but twice, by Erin Maxwell to force a shot clock violation. With only 5.81 seconds on the clock, Tarleton pressed full court, forcing TWU to scramble and come up well short on a 40-foot heave at the buzzer.
TWU score first to begin the game, but Tarleton responded with 12 straight points and led the rest of the first half. It was a nine-point margin before Spector hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with three seconds left before intermission. The Pioneers then scored the first six of the second half to even the score at 35-35.
Notes: Tarleton visits Midwestern State at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at D.L. Ligon Coliseum in Wichita Falls. A men’s game will follow… It was the 40th meeting between the Tarleton and TWU, with the TexAnns extending their series lead to 28-12.