STEPHENVILLE – For the second straight night, the Tarleton women’s basketball team was within three points of Utah Valley in the fourth quarter of a Western Athletic Conference affair.
But for the second straight night, the Texans’ late rally fell short, as Tarleton fell 67-54 to the Wolverines on Wednesday inside Wisdom Gym.
Tarleton trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half but scored on its first four possessions of the fourth quarter to make the score 52-49 with 8:32 remaining. Utah Valley, though, then counterpunched with a 15-3 scoring run of its own to spoil the Texans’ upset bid.
The opening frame ultimately proved decisive as did the third quarter of Tuesday’s ballgame. Tarleton led for more than 14 minutes vs. Utah Valley in its two-point defeat but was outscored 18-7 by the Wolverines out of halftime.
The Texans spirited second-half effort came on a night in which the team had just seven players enter the game and dressed just 10. Tarleton (8-15, 3-9 WAC) nearly erased a 15-point deficit in Tuesday’s 60-58 defeat to Utah Valley (12-5, 10-4), which will be the No. 2 seed in next week’s conference tournament in Las Vegas.
Consecutive layups by Kaitlyn Guillory and Marissa Escamilla cut an 11-point Wolverine lead to 52-45 at the 8:26 mark of the contest’s final frame. A technical foul was then assessed to the Utah Valley bench on the ensuing possession. Free throws from Jayci Morton followed by a contested finish from Iyana Dorsey turned the contest into a one-possession game.
Escamilla led Tarleton in scoring for the second consecutive game with 16 points on 7-11 shooting. Guillory joined Escamilla in double figures with 10 points and was Tarleton’s leading rebounder with eight boards. The 5-9 guard’s rebounding total matched her career high.
Back-to-back 3-point field goals and a pair of free throws by Wolverine point guard Maria Carvalho pushed Utah Valley’s edge back to 60-49. Three straight points by Dorsey, who finished with eight for the game, got Tarleton within single digits with under 4:00 to play but Utah Valley scored nine of the game’s final 12 points to seal the win.
Carvalho led Utah Valley in points scored (19) and rebounds (7). The Lisbon, Portugal native was a thorn in Tarleton’s defensive side early. She poured in eight first-quarter points to stake the visitors to their 13-point advantage.
Tarleton connected at a 41 percent clip from the field but hit just 1-of-10 shots to begin the game. The Texans never led throughout the outing.
The Texans responded offensively over the final four minutes of the second quarter with a 12-2 run. Two free throws from Guillory and back-to-back drives off the high post by Lucy Benson trimmed a 17-point deficit to 28-17 at the 2:40 mark of the period.
Benson was as aggressive offensively as she has been all season. The senior, who’s the only Texan to have spent all four years of her collegiate career in Stephenville, was responsible for four of Tarleton’s first-quarter points.
Four more points from Guillory followed by a finish from Escamilla in a one-on-one look got Tarleton within seven points at 30-23 with under 1:30 in the half.
Utah Valley led 48-31 midway through the third quarter before Tarleton mounted its comeback bid.
The Wolverines enjoyed a 37-22 advantage on the boards. Depth played a part in the end result, as Tarleton finished with no second-chance points. The Texans’ eight turnovers, though, marked the second consecutive game the team gave the ball away less than 10 times.
Tarleton now concludes its season with home games vs. UTRGV on March 5-6 inside Wisdom Gym. Tipoff time for both games is set for 7 p.m.