STEPHENVILLE – One last time during its inaugural Division I season, Tarleton women’s basketball is a winner.
Indeed, the Texans closed their 2020-21 campaign with a 63-52 victory over UTRGV on Saturday inside Wisdom Gym.
It was a win in which Tarleton (9-17, 4-10) locked up sixth place in the Western Athletic Conference standings in its first season spent as a member institution. The program finished ahead of three conference foes behind triumphs in five of its final nine ballgames.
The win gave the Texans a season victory over the Vaqueros. Tarleton fell 62-56 to UTRGV (6-13, 2-8 WAC) on Friday but earned its first true Division I win and victory over a WAC opponent on Jan. 27 in a 79-63 besting of the Vaqueros in Edinburg.
The win also sent junior Kandyn Faurie out as a victor for the final time in her Tarleton career. Faurie, who battled a nagging injury over the last year, confirmed Saturday’s contest would be her final in Purple and White.
And Faurie, a Liberty Hill, Texas, native, delivered when it mattered most for the Texans. Tarleton used a 17-5 scoring run in the fourth quarter to assume a 60-47 lead over the Vaqueros but the visitors then scored five straight points to get within three possessions of the Texans with 1:24 remaining. Faurie, a 79 percent foul shooter this season, then knocked down a trio of free throws to lock up the victory.
She finished with nine points – five of which came in the second half – along with two rebounds and assists apiece.
Faurie was a component of Tarleton’s midseason turnaround of sorts. Prior to the team’s first win over UTRGV, the Texans had dropped seven straight ballgames and sat 3-10 overall on the seasons. But with Faurie assuming primary ballhandling duties as the team’s roster thinned, Tarleton found its stride.
Over the second half of the season, Tarleton limited opponents to just 57 points per game. Including Saturday’s win, the Texans held teams to 65-or-fewer points in 10 of their final 12 outings.
Head coach Misty Wilson’s 2-3 zone defense again reaped rewards Saturday evening. Tarleton contained UTRGV to 32.8 percent shooting (19-58) from the field. The Texans limited Amara Graham, who tallied a game-high 23 points in Friday’s loss, to just nine points. The Vaqueros’ leading scorer connected on just one field goal attempt in the second half.
In some ways, the win mirrored Tarleton’s success at the southern tip of U.S. Route 281 six weeks prior in building and maintaining an early lead. The Texans led by as many as 19 points in its January victory and held an advantage on the scoreboard for more than 35 minutes on Saturday.
After UTRGV scored three straight points to begin the game, Tarleton never again trailed. The Texans closed the first quarter on a 16-6 run to build a seven-point lead. After playing the Vaqueros evenly on the scoreboard in the second and third periods, UTRGV opened the fourth quarter with five straight points to make the score 43-42 at the 9:06 mark of the frame.
But Iyana Dorsey and Marissa Escamilla had an immediate answer. Escamilla (16 points, 10 rebounds), who recorded her second straight double-double and fifth of the season, converted consecutive layups at the rack before Dorsey drained a contested floater and 3-pointer from the key to swell Tarleton’s lead back to 10 points and essentially bury UTRGV for good.
Dorsey finished with a game-high 20 points and demonstrated her offensive evolution over the course of Tarleton’s 25-game season. Tarleton’s leading scorer (14.2 ppg) poured in a career-high 22 points – 21 of which came in the second half – in Frida’s defeat and gave Tarleton an offensive jumpstart when it needed on most.
Tarleton also benefited from all-around efforts by seniors Lucy Benson and Kaitlyn Guillory. Neither player has confirmed their intentions to utilize the NCAA’s eligibility waiver, but both showed out in their final contests as fourth-year seniors. Guillory gave Tarleton seven points and rebounds and was the Texans’ leading scorer at the intermission while Benson snagged nine boards along with six points.
In a trying college basketball season adversely affected by schedule disruptions and capacity restrictions due to COVID-19, Tarleton successfully completed all 25 games on its schedule – the maximum allowed by the WAC.
And its final showcased progress in the present and hope and momentum for the future of its Division I journey.