STEPHENVILLE – Another layer was added to a rich history of success for the Tarleton women’s basketball program on Saturday.
The team’s 76-50 victory over Howard Payne inside Wisdom Gym was Tarleton’s first Division I win and came in convincing fashion. Tarleton never trailed in the game and led by as many as 32 points in the contest. The Texans connected on 51 percent of their shots from the field and received scoring contributions from eight players. It was the second game in which Tarleton shot at or above a 50 percent clip.
Freshman Iyana Dorsey continued her torrid offensive start to the 2020-21 season with a 17-point performance. It was the second straight game in which Dorsey led all scorers and came on the heels of an 18-point effort in Wednesday’s 87-71 loss at North Texas.
Emily Cunningham (16 points) and Jayci Morton (10 points) joined Dorsey in double figures as did Callie Boyles, who poured in 12 points off the bench. Boyles also recorded the first double-double of her career, adding 13 rebounds and 5 points to her stat sheet.
Boyles’ career afternoon was well-timed. The Texans were without four players, including forward Marissa Escamilla, and saw Cunningham in foul trouble in the first half for the second consecutive game.
The 6-3 forward played 15 of her career-high 25 minutes in the first half to steady Tarleton’s frontcourt. Eight of Boyles’ points came in the first 20 minutes and the Denton native had already reached 10 rebounds.
Morton started in place of Escamilla and put forth a balanced game. The Stephenville High School graduate had six assists and four rebounds to go with her scoring total and finished with a plus-minus rating of 39.
Tarleton shot out of the gate offensively, using a 17-0 scoring run to race out to a double-digit lead it never relinquished. The Texans outscored the Yellow Jackets 26-7 in the first quarter.
The Texans connected on 4-6 shots from long range in the frame, two of which came from Cunningham. The junior was 6-9 from the field and 4-6 from deep and flashed a shooting touch she developed in her time at Hill College. Cunningham ranks third all-time in program history in 3-point field goals made and 15th in total made field goals.
An improved shooting performance beyond the arc was a welcome sign following Wednesday’s defeat. The team connected on one 3-point shot vs. the Mean Green but were 9-24 (37.5 percent) from downtown on Saturday.
Tarleton was more efficient on offense as well. Six players combined to give the Texans 18 assists for the game. The figure was a stark improvement from Wednesday. The Texans turned the ball over 21 times against North Texas and finished with three assists – the lowest total under seventh-year head coach Misty Wilson.
Howard Payne was 6-12 from 3-point range in the second half to pull within 15 points of the intermission but the Texans erased any threat of a comeback early in the third quarter. 3-point shots from Dorsey and Cunningham and consecutive scoring finishes by senior Alexa Hoy fueled an 18-2 run to give the Texans an 18-2 advantage.
Senior Lucy Benson matched her career-high in rebounds with nine to lead the Texans’ effort on the glass. Tarleton outrebounded Howard Payne 42-34 for the game.
Hoy (7 points) and juniors Kandyn Faurie (4 points) and Reagan Heun (2 points) rounded out Tarleton’s scoring effort.
For a program that now has 924 victories as a senior college, it felt appropriate that its first Division I victory came under seventh-year head coach Misty Wilson. The Texan Hall of Famer began her career as a walk-on in 1998 and has spent the past 17 years as an assistant or head coach with the Texans.
Tarleton caps its two-game homestand with a 6 p.m. game on Wednesday against Bacone College. Bacone, which is located in Muskogee, Oklahoma, competes as an NAIA independent team. It will be the first meeting between the two schools.