CLARENCE PLANK: Portales News-Tribune Zias sophomore guard Tara Johnson dribbles the ball down the court while calling out the offensive play for the Zias.
PORTALES — Northeastern State, ranked seventh in NCAA Division II in the USA Today ESPN poll, used its stingy defense to turn back Eastern New Mexico University 55-45 on Saturday in a women’s Lone Star Conference crossover game at Greyhound Arena.
The RiverHawks (8-0), holding teams to 47 points and 33 percent shooting coming in, essentially matched that. They limited the Zias (2-6) to 33 percent from the field on 16-of-48.
Northeastern had three players in double digits, led by sophomore guard Taylor Lewis with 15 points — 13 coming in the second half. Juniors Jasmine Webb and Jasmine Wright added 13 and 10, respectively. The Zias are 1-4 in Lone Star Conference cross-over play.
“They’re always the best defensive team in the country year-in and year-out,” Zias coach Linden Weese said. “Their defenders are really smart and double-team players to take away a team’s leading scorer.”
Junior forward Precious Herrin had 16 points and 15 rebounds for the Zias, while senior forward Cat Clay went 4-of-8 from 3-point range and finished with 12 points. Weese said both did a good job of getting their points, but the team needs other players to step up.
Northeastern forced the Zias into eight first-half turnovers and took a 26-20 lead at the break.
“We played solid on defense pretty much throughout the game,” NSU State coach Randy Gipson said. “We rebounded pretty well, but we had a little bit of a sub par offensive game. I believe Eastern had something to do with that, though, because they have a solid defense, too.”
Gipson said Herrin is for real and expects she will draw a lot of attention from defenses this season..
“They took away Precious, which was their game plan coming in,” Clay said of the RiverHawks. “We need to have at least four other players in double figures in order to be successful against them.”
Both teams finished with 17 turnovers, but Weese said the Zias will need to cut that down when they host Central Oklahoma in their pre-holiday finale at 6 p.m. on Monday.