By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (December 1, 2016) — Tarleton State (2-4, 1-0) scored 15 straight points in the first quarter, 10 straight to begin the second and was in control the whole way in a 72-58 victory over Midwestern State (2-4, 0-1) at Wisdom Gym Thursday evening.
MSU cut its deficit to 12 by halftime, but never pulled within single digits in the Lone Star Conference opener for both teams. Tarleton hosts Cameron at 2 p.m. Saturday, and Midwestern visits Texas A&M-Commerce at the same time.
Balanced scoring paved the way for the TexAnns, led by Mackenzie Hailey with a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds. Bailey Wipff poured in 17, Tiara Tatum 14 and Travanti Downes added 11 off the bench.
Turnovers were the biggest reason for the wide margin. MSU gave away the ball the 26 times and Tarleton just 14. The TexAnns had 14 steals and outscored the Mustangs 27-17 off turnovers.
MSU cut it to 34-24 in the opening moments of the second half, but Tarleton answered with a runner by Tiara Tatum and a pair of free throws by Mackenzie Hailey and a left corner 3 by Bailey Peck for a 7-0 run. MSU answered with 3 at the other end, but Tarleton was ahead by at least 12 the rest of the way.
The lead was 13 before TexAnn Travanti Downes hit a pair of free throws and an 18-foot right baseline jumper to push it to 56-39 by the end of the third, when Tarleton already had four scorers in double figures. The margin grew to 59-39 early in the fourth and as soon as MSU scored four straight to cut it to 16, Hailey scored a put back and Wipff drove around a defender and banked in a layup to make it 63-43 just before the six-minute mark.
MSU scored the next six to give itself late signs of life, but an official review of a tie ball showed a shove by Midwestern guard Jasmine Richardson, and Bailey Wipff hit a pair of technical free throws for Tarleton. Wipff then assisted Hailey for an easy bucket inside on the possession following the technical, and the lead was right back to 67-49 with 4:30 to go.
MSU cut it to 14 again less than a minute later, but Tarleton handled the Mustangs’ late press and was never stressed the final three minutes.
Midwestern was led by Whitney Taylor with 22 points. Liz Cathcart scored 10 off the bench.
Tarleton started the game by hitting its first four shots from the floor as part of an early 15-0 run to built an 18-8 lead by the end of the first quarter. McKenzie scored five straight points during the big run, then Tiara Tatum score the first five points of the second quarter as part of a 10-0 Tarleton scoring spree.
The second of those runs made it 28-8 before Midwestern answered with a 9-1 push that got the Mustangs back in the game. Leanna James scored back-to-back buckets, the second off a steal in transition, to key the run, which brought MSU within 29-17.
The rivals traded off five points each to finish the half with Tarleton on top 34-22. Tarleton shot just 34 percent before the break, but had 10 more attempts because of a 16-7 advantage in turnovers. The TexAnns had nine first-half steals to just two by the Mustangs.
TheFlashToday.com photos by RUSSELL HUFFMAN