CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo ENMU sophomore Stephanie Bailey is surrounded by a trio of Tarleton State defenders as she goes up for a shot in Wednesday’s Lone Star Conference South Division women’s matchup at Greyhound Arena.
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — It’s been a tough learning curve for the youth-dominated Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball team. Wednesday’s lesson may have been the most difficult yet.
The Zias struggled from the start, falling behind 17-1 in the first 5 1/2 minutes and never recovering in a 68-47 Lone Star Conference South Division loss to Tarleton State at Greyhound Arena.
Other than a brief burst late in the first half, in which the Zias (3-17, 0-7 South) pared a 19-point deficit to eight at halftime, there wasn’t much to feel good about.
Despite going 5-for-12 from 3-point range, ENMU shot 18 percent overall (11-of-62). The Zias were held to four field goals after halftime, making only one of their 29 attempts from inside the 3-point line in the second half.
Some of it surely had to do with the TexAnns (14-6, 5-2), who generally play solid defense.
“They’re big physical, kids; you have to give them some credit,” ENMU coach Linden Weese said. “(But) when you shoot less than 20 percent, you don’t deserve to win.”
The TexAnns started the game hitting six of their first eight shots, including two 3-pointers from junior D’Anna Dingler and one from freshman point guard Sonya Sundberg.
“I was surprised we played as well as we did,” Tarleton coach Ronnie Hearne said. “We came down here last year and didn’t play well at all (in a 59-54 loss to the Zias).
“We were just kind of clicking early, making shots. (But) I thought definitely the second half was our better 20 minutes.”
Freshman guard Patricia Malouff scored 11 of her team-leading 14 points in the final 9 1/2 minutes of the half, including a rebound basket just before the buzzer to pull ENMU to 31-23.
But the second half started the same way as the first, with Tarleton scoring the first seven points. Til-Lois Fifer’s short jumper — the only two-point field goal of the half — and freshman Lacey Acker’s 3-pointer made it 38-28 with 16 minutes left, but the TexAnns went on a 12-2 run to salt it away.
“We missed some and we started panicking a little,” Weese said. “I thought Lacey did a nice job, and so did Malouff, but they were about the only ones.”
Tarleton State lost 6-foot sophomore forward Brittney Haley, its leading scorer and rebounder, to a season-ending knee injury in practice on Monday, Hearne said. Haley had been the only Tarleton player averaging in double figures for the season.
But 6-1 sophomore JoAnne Jones compiled 16 points and five rebounds in her first start, and the TexAnns also got 15 points from Dingler and 11 — all in the second half — from Stephen F. Austin transfer Jamie Ansley.
“JoAnne Jones definitely stepped up for us tonight,” Hearne said. “She hasn’t had a lot of minutes before, but she’ll get all the minutes she wants now.”