CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo ENMU freshman Tori Northcutt tries to steal the ball from West Texas A&M’s Emily Brister in Saturday’s Lone Star Conference South Division woman’s game at Greyhound Arena.
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University’s women may have caught nationally-ranked rival West Texas A&M a bit off-guard Saturday night.
It only took the Lady Buffs about 3 1/2 minutes to get back on track.
WT (12-3, 2-0 South), ranked No. 22 nationally, went on an 18-0 run to wipe out the Zias’ early five-point lead en route to an 85-60 win in a Lone Star Conference South Division matchup at Greyhound Arena.
Junior guard Emily Brister scored 17 of her game-high 21 points in the first half as West Texas opened a 47-32 lead, and four teammates joined her in double figures by the end of the night.
Still, with nine freshmen and three sophomores filling out their roster, the Zias didn’t back away from the challenge.
“These kids play with great effort,” ENMU women’s coach Linden Weese said. “I think out of the 40 minutes, for about 32 or 33 we played pretty well against them.”
Turnovers were the main downfall for ENMU (3-12, 0-2) — 25 of them to be exact, many against WT’s aggressive pressure defense.
Trailing 12-7 with 14 minutes left in the half, the Lady Buffs got consecutive 3-pointers from junior guards Dixie Bell and Chelsea Blackshear to take the lead. Brister added a 3-point play and a 3-point basket later in the run, and WT never lost control after that.
“I told (her team that ENMU) would be fired up to play,” said second-year WT coach Krista Gerlich, who played for and later coached with Weese on Marsha Sharp’s staff at Texas Tech. “They hit their first few shots and we missed ours.
“I tried to keep my composure because we’ve got to learn to be able to respond to (situations like) that.”
Gerlich said the Lady Buffs used the 5-foot-9 Brister in the post more than usual early, and it paid off.
“We just jump on her back and let her carry us,” Gerlich said. “Emily just came out and said, ‘Let’s get our motors going.’”
Guard Courtney Lee added 16 points for West Texas, while reserve Megan McLain added 13. The Lady Buffs shot 50 percent from the field, including 10-of-21 from 3-point range.
The Zias, who shot 45 percent, knocked down 7-of-11 on 3-pointers and converted 15-of-17 free throws.
“We shot pretty well,” Weese said. “We shot about 45 percent, and you can beat a lot of teams doing that.”
Freshman forward Til-Lois Fifer led the Zias with 15 points, while guards Samantha Matta and Cat Clay added 14 and 13, respectively. Matta went 6-for-9 and Clay 4-for-5 from the field.