CHICAGO – For the first time this winter, Tarleton women’s basketball can put one in the Western Athletic Conference win column.
The Texans held off Chicago State 64-56 on Saturday inside the Jones Convocation Center in the Windy City to notch their first conference victory in program history. The win snaps a five-game WAC losing streak for Tarleton (5-12, 1-6 WAC) and is the team’s second win over a conference foe in four games.
It was not an easy result to come by for Tarleton, which was fouled 23 times during the afternoon and out-rebounded 34-26 by the Cougars, who remain winless on the season. But it was a clear victory, as the Texans led for more than 34 minutes and forced 20 CSU (0-10, 0-7) turnovers to dictate the game’s pace.
Iyana Dorsey and Marissa Escamilla were the architects behind the win. The duo finished with 18 points apiece to lead all scorers and Dorsey stoked Tarleton’s defensive effort, tallying a career-high five steals.
Dorsey canned the biggest bucket of the afternoon, hitting a triple from the top of the key with 1:46 remaining to push Tarleton’s lead to 60-53. The Cougars converted an and-one on the previous possession to pull within four but were held without a field goal the rest of the way.
The Texans then finished off CSU at the charity stripe. Dorsey and Jayci Morton each knocked down a pair at the foul line to secure the final margin of victory.
Foul shooting proved decisive in the game as did the Cougar giveaways. Tarleton went 20-25 at the line compared to 9-18 by CSU. The Texans have now made 15-or-more free throws on 10 separate occasions.
The strong clip at the line offset struggles from the field. The Texans shot 37.5 percent collectively and had just 10 made baskets inside the arc.
Escamilla gave Tarleton the offensive lift it needed in the second half. The 5-9 forward scored 15 of her points over the game’s final minutes and stymied a pair of CSU attempts to even the score. She rattled off eight straight points on a pair of finishes down low and a made triple to up Tarleton’s lead to 40-33 around the midway point of the third quarter. Escamilla then scored five points over a two-and-a-half-minute stretch in the final frame to boost the Texans advantage from 50-46 to 57-50.
Both Escamilla and fellow forward Lucy Benson took turns defending CSU leading scorer Nadia Thorman-McKey, who entered averaging 13.2 points per game. She scored nine points in the first quarter to keep CSU within a point of the Texans at 17-16. Tarleton then held Thorman-McKey to seven points the rest of the way.
The Cougars hit their first four attempts from long range, the last of which gave CSU a 20-19 edge at the 6:17 mark of the second quarter that proved to be its final lead. CSU went 7-9 from beyond the arc for the game.
Made triples from guards Jayci Morton and Kaitlyn Guillory staked Tarleton to a 30-25 halftime lead. Morton’s 11 points were a career-high. The Stephenville product played a team-high 24 minutes among reserves and frequently drew the defensive assignment of guard Wynter Webb, CSU’s primary ballhandler. Webb had 10 points at the intermission but was held to seven in the second half.
Kandyn Faurie led Tarleton on the glass with six rebounds while Benson had the team-high in assists with four.
Tarleton had a noticeable depth advantage over the Cougars. CSU suited up just six of a possible 10 players and finished the final 15 seconds of the game with four.
The win presents a springboard for Tarleton as the team enters the stretch run of its first season as a Division I program. A victory over the Cougars in Sunday’s 1 p.m. affair can move the Texans into a tie for fifth in the WAC standings. Tarleton has three conference series remaining, two of which are expected to take place inside Wisdom Gym pending schedule announcements.