By BRAD KEITH
(STEPHENVILLE (January 17, 2016) — Tarleton State suffered arguably its most difficult loss of the season Sunday afternoon as Texas Woman’s finished on a 26-7 run to wipe out a 16-point third-quarter deficit and win 61-58 in Lone Star Conference play at Wisdom Gym Sunday.
Tarleton (8-8, 2-4) led 51-35 following a pair of Nia Jackson free throws with 2:54 remaining in the third quarter, but scored just seven points over the final 12:54 of the game.
Kenesha Saygo scored five during an 8-0 run to the end of the third that brought TWU (15-3, 5-1) within eight, and the rally continued into the fourth. Kara Mitchell scored seven of her 18 in the fourth despite struggling from the free throw line where she split three pairs down the stretch and was 10-18 for the game.
Mitchell hit one of two on two separate trips to even the score at 58-58 with 49 seconds left, then sent a lob pass to center Erin Maxwell for an easy layup the first TWU lead of the game with 23 seconds remaining.
Ikpeaku Iwobi missed a potential go-ahead 3-pointer for Tarleton with eight seconds remaining, and Alexis Nezianya grabbed the biggest defensive rebound of the game for TWU. She found Mitchell with an outlet pass, and Mitchell hit 1-2 again from the stripe to finish the scoring.
Bailey Wipff gave Tarleton one last gasp of life by rebounding the missed second free throw by Mitchell, and Tarleton called timeout to advance the ball in the front court with 2.97 seconds left.
But Tarleton could not get a shot off in time, taking too long to go to Jackson on the inbound pass and then to Fuller and ultimately Wipff for what was supposed to be a right wing 3-point try at the buzzer. Wipff’s attempt didn’t come until just after the buzzer sounded, but it wouldn’t have mattered as the shot hit the back of the rim and fell away.
Tarleton started the game 7-12 from 3-point range before missing its last eight attempts from outside the arc. The TexAnns were just 3-14 (21 percent) from the floor in the fourth, when TWU was 6-12 from the field and 5-8 from the stripe.
Michell finished with 18 for TWU and Saygo scored 14. Maxwell had 10 along with seven rebounds inside, while Nezianya netted six points and collected 10 boards.
Tarleton was led by Wipff with 13 points while Jackson scored 12, a new career high, off the bench. The smallest player on the floor, Jackson was 4-6 from the field and 4-4 at the line.
Tarleton led for all of the first 35 minutes, mostly by double digits. Raven McGrath used an impressive up and under move to finish off a hard drive to the basket on one possession, and on the next dove to the floor to secure a loose ball that she kicked out for an open 3-pointer by Morgan Ashmore that made it 10-4.
It was 17-12 at the end of the first, and McGrath scored five straight early in the second. Tarleton led by 17 before TWU scored the final eight points of the half, cutting it to 34-25 at intermission.
The final seconds were ugly for the TexAnns, who sent only four players onto the court out of a timeout with 24 seconds remaining. Tarleton still managed to get an offensive rebound, but missed a two shots then committed a loose ball foul in the backcourt.
Tarleton put a fifth player – Averie Mack – on the court and TWU missed both free throws before grabbing the rebound and hitting a put back to make it a single-digit difference at the buzzer. Tarleton missed its final six shot attempts and turned the ball over four times in the final four minutes of the half.
The TexAnns are home for another LSC doubleheader Wednesday. Eastern New Mexico visits Wisdom Gym at 5:30 p.m. with the men’s teams to follow.
TWU hosts Texas A&M-Kingsville at 7 p.m. Thursday in Denton.