RIVERSIDE – In its toughest test of conference play, Tarleton stood tall.
The Texans battled reigning Western Athletic Conference regular season and tournament champion California Baptist on Thursday inside the CBU events center.
The Lancers (14-2, 5-0 WAC) won the game, 85-69, to advance their WAC winning streak to 24 games.
But in defeat, the Tarleton (11-7, 3-4 WAC) proved its continued progression, particularly offensively.
The Texans’ 69 points matched their season high in true D1 games. They scored in double figures in all four quarters. Tarleton had 25 makes from the field, had three players eclipse 10 points and out-rebounded the Lancers 38-30. Tarleton enjoyed a 12-4 edge on the offensive glass.
“This is probably one of the most consistent [nights] we’ve been offensively in a long time,” head coach Misty Wilson said. “We’ve got to take the positive and build on that. It was good to see us be able to execute offensively, because it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to really count on our offense. We’ve had to really rely on our defense. Hopefully we can use that and continue to move forward and continue to execute in the half-court offense.”
The Texans boast the conference’s top scoring defense (56 ppg) but drew a CBU squad that entered Thursday’s ballgame averaging 75 points per game.
The advancement at the offensive end of the court enabled the Texans to stay within striking distance of CBU throughout the evening.
Tarleton doubled up the Lancers 14-7 five minutes into the game and later trailed by just five points entering halftime at 38-33. CBU regained its double-digit lead out of the intermission, but consecutive 3-pointers to begin the fourth quarter cut the Lancers’ advantage down to 10 at 64-54.
Iyana Dorsey scored a team-high 18 points to lead the offense. Dorsey is averaging 11 points per game since conference play began.
Fellow guard Malaya Kendrick had her fingerprints all over Tarleton’s attack, tallying 16 points, seven rebounds – four offensive – and a team-best four assists. The 5-7 senior has snagged seven-or-more boards on nine occasions this season.
Seynabou Thiam continued to augment her place on Tarleton’s D1 single season record book. Thiam snagged a game-high 14 rebounds to go along with 12 points to register her third double-double of the season. She is the first player in the Texans’ D1 era to record multiple double-doubles. Thiam, 6-6, also swatted two shots to up her season blocks total to 49. She needs 10 more rejections to break Tarleton’s record for most blocks in a season.
Two CBU runs loomed large in dictating the end result.
Following Tarleton’s 14-7 spurt to open the game, the Lancers closed the first quarter on a 22-4 run.
CBU outscored Tarleton 26-15 in the third quarter to assume a 64-48 edge entering the final frame.
Ane Olaeta and Caitlyn Harper finished with 21 points apiece for the Lancers. Olaeta, last season’s recipient of WAC Player of the Year honors, also dished out nine assists. Harper entered the contest as the conference’s leading scorer at 19.6 points per game.
The Lancers shot 55 percent combined and knocked down 10 shots from long range.
“You’ve got to be able to capitalize on your stops,” Wilson said. “They’re a really tough team to defend. They’re a really tough team to stop, and the game plan can’t be completely stopping and shutting down their offense. They’re just that good.”
The second quarter was one of Tarleton’s better 10-minute circuits of the 2021-22 campaign. The Texans outscored the Lancers 15-9 and closed the half on an 8-2 run to make the game a two-possession affair. Dorsey knocked down a trio of 3-pointers in the period, including two straight with under a minute to play. Defensively, Tarleton limited CBU to four made field goals and a 1-7 mark from downtown.
“They missed shots,” Wilson said. “I think they went 1-7 from the 3-point line because we were flying around and being aggressive, running them off the 3-point line.”
Even with the game decided in the fourth quarter – CBU took its largest lead of the night at 76-59 – the game’s last 10 minutes levied positives of its own.
Tarleton and CBU played to a 21-21 draw. Jenna Dick (8 points, 2 rebounds) drained consecutive triples to shrink the Lancers lead down to 64-54 and prompt the hosts to burn a timeout.
The Texans shot 7-12 from the field. Six of their points came from freshman Mason Jones, who drained a pair of 3-pointers to finish with a true D1 career-high six points. Jones played 11 second-half minutes, her most vs. a D1 foe this season.
“She’s got a high IQ,” Wilson said. “I think she’s going to learn a lot from these experiences. I think it’s important for her to learn and get a better understanding and see where she’s at right now so she can continue to develop in her college basketball career.”
Tarleton now concludes its two-game swing through the west coast with a trip to the Evergreen State to face Seattle U at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
The game is Tarleton’s fifth in a nine-day span. The Texans are 2-2 in that stretch, with victories over New Mexico State (58-56) and Sam Houston (62-61).
The Redhawks (6-9, 1-3 WAC) earned their first conference victory on Thursday with a 75-61 defeat of Abilene Christian. Seattle U outscored the Wildcats 29-10 in the fourth quarter.
Saturday’s game is the first-and-only meeting between Tarleton and Seattle U this season.