By BRAD KEITH
Photos by Dr. CHET MARTIN
STEPHENVILLE (February 21, 2015) — In the Twitter world, Tarleton State standout Kathy Thomas is known as @datgurlgotgame_.
It’s a name that fits. Because that girl’s got game, indeed.
Thomas poured in 12 first half points to help the TexAnns to a 10-point lead by intermission, and the senior guard from Detroit finished with 17 in a 77-68 win over Eastern New Mexico at Wisdom Gym Saturday night.
Thomas scored 25 – one less than her career high – at West Texas A&M on Wednesday, averaging 21 for the week. She was efficient, too, going 5-9 from the floor Saturday, including 4-7 from the arc.
“I’m just taking what the defense gives me and trying to take smart shots,” said Thomas. “We just have to take good shots and knock them down.”
Thomas and company led by as many as 18 before a strong finishing run by Eastern New Mexico made the game appear to be closer than it really was. The Zias cut the deficit to 73-66 in the final minute, but Bailey Wipff secured the win for Tarleton.
Wipff, a junior guard, hit two free throws, blocked a 3-point shot at the other end, corralled the rebound, was fouled and hit two more from the stripe to push the lead to 11.
Misty Wilson became the winningest first-year head coach in Tarleton’s NCAA era, surpassing her old boss, Ronnie Hearne, a 1,000-game career winner who retired following last season. Wilson was officially introduced as Tarleton’s next head coach in the same press conference where Hearne announced his retirement.
The TexAnns shot 54.5 percent from the floor in the fast-paced opening half opening half, which ended with them leading 45-35.
“It’s always our goal to come out and run and play fast,” said Thomas, who scored 11 points over the game’s first 10 minutes. “We knew they are a running team so we wanted to get out and run, too.”
Tarleton was ahead just 36-33 before scoring nine straight points late in the opening half. Brianna Fuller scored six during the run and finished with 14 points and nine boards. Ikpeaku Iwobi doubled up for the eighth time in her sophomore season with 11 points and 11 boards.
A stretch of five straight points gave Tarleton its largest lead of 67-49 with 6:09 remaining. The run featured a 3-pointer by Thomas and a stretch of 4:36 without a point by the Zias.
Tarleton had to fight through a 23-point outburst by Sarah Stinnett and 19 points and nine rebounds by Tori Tucker. But they were two of just five scorers for the Zias.
The TexAnns dominated the backboards, 48-31, and scored 40 points in the paint.
Tarleton moved into sole possession of fourth place in the Lone Star Conference and has just one league game remaining. The TexAnns visit McMurry in non-conference play Wednesday, then conclude LSC and regular season action at home against Texas A&M-Commerce next Saturday.
“We just have to take one game at a time and focus on playing our game every night,” said Kathy Thomas. “You can’t look ahead and you can’t look past any team.”
ENMU is now guaranteed to finish seventh in the regular season. The Zias know they will face Cameron or Midwestern State in the opening round of the conference tournament March 4-7. Tarleton will open the tournament against either Texas Woman’s or A&M-Commerce.