Zias overcome turnover woes to take opener

By Dave Wagner

IT’S PRETTY HARD TO win a basketball game with 31 turnovers.

Of course, it helps if you dominate the boards 59-33 and shoot 22 of 27 from the free throw line.

All those numbers accompanied Sunday’s season-opening 65-55 road win for the Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball team over Colorado-Colorado Springs.

Getting the win makes overlooking the turnover stat a bit easier.

“We handled the ball OK,” second-year Zias coach Dan Buzard said Monday. “Most of our turnovers were caused by us trying to do things too quick.

“Overall, for our first outing I thought we played with a lot of heart and we played tough.”

Buzard, whose team opened by beating Oklahoma Panhandle State last year but went on to a 7-20 record, said the Mountain Lions provided a stiff challenge.

“They’re a quality team,” he said. “They had some big kids and some good guards, and they just get after you. I was just glad to get out of there with a win.”

The Zias went only three deep on the bench against CU-Colorado Springs, but Buzard said freshman guard Heather Brown provided quality support with five points, seven rebounds and two assists.

“She really stepped up on the defensive end,” he said. “All three of her 3-point shots (missed, but) looked like they were going in.”

THREE OF THE FOUR teams in the NCAA Division II West Region football playoffs are from the Lone Star Conference. League champion Texas A&M-Kingsville is making its third consecutive trip, Tarleton State has qualified for the second time in three years and Central Oklahoma is going for the fourth time in eight years.

Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference champion Mesa State (Colo.) is the top seed and will host UCO (8-2) on Saturday, while Tarleton (8-3) plays at Kingsville (9-1).

Of note, UCO belted Mesa 42-16 in the teams’ opener in Edmond, Okla., the only loss for the Mavericks (10-1). Kingsville also won at Tarleton 29-23 in an earlier matchup.

ENMU, which finished 6-5 after losing its final three games, is still looking for its first berth since going to Division II from the NAIA back in the 1980s. The Greyhounds have now had six consecutive winning records, and seem to get in striking range of the playoffs every year only to lose a couple of key games late and fall out of it.

Eastern more than doubled its opposition in rushing yardage for the season and led the LSC in rushing offense by a wide margin, but the Hounds struggled late against teams that were able to load up against the run. Their 80 pass completions were 40 fewer than Abilene Christian, which had the second-fewest in the LSC.

QUICK HITS — Tarleton recovered from its loss at last-place Southwestern Oklahoma the previous week to rout UCO 38-23 on Saturday, clinching the North title. … Kingsville’s only loss to an LSC opponent over the last two seasons was its 37-34 setback to ENMU in 2002 at Blackwater Draw. … Travis McCorkle, coach of the first-year ENMU women’s soccer program, was pleased the Zias were able to get freshman forward Megan Dozier on the All-LSC first team, while freshman Anna Funck (second team) and sophomore Pam Campbell (honorable mention) were also cited. “I think it demonstrates we are on the right track for the future,” said McCorkle, whose team went 3-12 (2-6 LSC) with a mostly freshman and sophomore roster. “We hope to add more players to this list next year.”

CNJ sports writer Dave Wagner can be reached at dave_wagner@link.freedom.com