Pioneers whip Zias

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University’s women had matchup problems Thursday night. Big time.

Concerned with Texas Woman’s inside game, led by 6-foot junior post Renee Renz, the Zias opted for a 2-3 zone defense. The Pioneers, shooting just under 30 percent for the season from long range, torched it with 12-of-21 shooting from beyond the arc — 8-of-11 after halftime — en route to a 71-51 Lone Star Conference South Division victory.

Sophomore guard Keshia Bolds, averaging 4.4 points coming into the game, went 7-of-8 from 3-point range and 9-of-13 overall for a career-best 27 points for Texas Woman’s (7-11, 2-3 South).

“We just really got hot,” first-year Pioneers coach Beth Jillson said. “We’ve never shot that well all season.

“They (Zias) were just packing it inside so far, and we couldn’t get the ball in there.”

ENMU coach Linden Weese said his team went zone to try to contain Renz, averaging nearly 17 points a game. They did, limiting her to just eight on 1-of-8 shooting, but the Pioneers burned them from outside.

“We had to pick our poison tonight — take away the inside or the outside,” Weese said. “The first half, we really didn’t take away anything.”

While the Pioneers struggled to 5-of-22 shooting over the first 9 1/2 minutes, the Zias (3-15, 0-5) had more turnovers (13) than shots (5).

“We want to dictate with our defense,” Jillson said. “I think if you can play defense, the offense will come. They (Pioneers) did a good job of getting into the passing lanes tonight.”

Weese said the defensive quickness made a big difference.

“That team probably does as good a job as anybody we’ve played with help defense,” he said. “If you try to throw it over the top, they’ve got kids in position to make a play.”

Down 32-13 late in the half, the Zias opened the second stanza on a 12-3 run and closed to 40-32 with just under 17 minutes left. Bolds answered with her first of five second-half 3-pointers in the second half and the Pioneers pulled away.

Jillson noted her team has lost several close games of late, including dropping their first three division contests by a total of eight points.

“We were competitive, but we weren’t finishing off games,” she said. “Our motto has been to rebound (from the losses) and learn from them, and I’ve challenged my kids to respond.”

Point guard Tiandrea Dixon added 10 points and 13 assists for Texas Woman’s. Freshman Til-Lois Fifer led the Zias with 16 points and six rebounds, while sophomore Megan Kabrick hit 4-of-6 3-pointers and finished with 12 points.

Freshman point guard Tori Northcutt, coming off a knee injury sustained against State on Saturday, played 18 minutes off the bench for ENMU. She didn’t score, but had seven assists to only one turnover.