Abilene Christian tops Zias

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson ENMU freshman Patricia Malouff, right, dives for a loose ball, but is beaten to it by Abilene Christian Alex Guiton in the second half of Wednesday’s Lone Star Conference South Division game at Greyhound Arena.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

PORTALES — Between Abilene Christian’s size and Eastern New Mexico University’s shooting troubles, it wasn’t a night to be for the Zias.

Audrey Maxwell dominated the inside for a game-high 27 points, and Wildcats guards dominated the outside with nine 3-pointers as visiting Abilene Christian claimed an 80-60 Lone Star Conference South Division women’s victory Wednesday night at Greyhound Arena.

In claiming its fifth-straight South win, ACU never trailed, but held off several Zias rallies after jumping out to a 10-2 lead.

The final score was not indicative of most of the night, as Abilene Christian (13-9, 7-2) closed out the game on an 18-3 run. Most of the night featured the undersized Zias (4-18, 1-8) pulling to a tie or a two-point deficit, only to see ACU hit a 3-pointer to keep the distance.

Alex Guiton had four of those 3-pointers en route to a 16-point night, and Jody Meyer scored 14 off the bench.

Wildcats coach Shawna Lavender credited Meyer with helping open up the perimeter for shooters, and her guards for making open looks.

“We don’t shoot a lot of 3s,” Lavender said, “so it was good to see some of our players shoot well tonight.”

It was a tough matchup for the Zias, but coach Linden Weese was satisfied the team kept the margin close throughout, as opposed to the 91-61 loss three weeks ago at Abilene.

The Zias did many things right, as they shot 14-of-15 from the line and twice evened things up. But when there was a offensive rebound the Wildcats needed, Meyer or Maxwell usually got it.

“They’re just big,” Weese said. “Other than their point guard, they’re all big. They’re not just big, they’re long and athletic inside.”

Meyer scored six in a row for ACU to close out the first half after Zias freshman Patricia Malouff tied the game at 32 on a running layup.

The Zias tied the game again at 38 early in the second half on a 3-point play by Til-Lois Fifer, who led three Zias in double figures with 15.

But Guiton hit a 3-pointer on the next possession, and it became a turning point for both teams. The Zias shot 6-for-28 for the remaining 19 minutes, and ACU hit five 3-pointers in outscoring ENMU 42-22 down the stretch.

Lavender said her team found gaps in the zone as the game went on, but commended the Zias for their effort.

“We struggled against their zone, but (beat it) in spurts,” Lavender said. “Defensively, I thought they were a lot better tonight.”

Weese agreed, but said guarding both the perimeter and the posts on good-shooting nights was a giant task.

“They go hard inside, you’ve got to defend them from inside-out,” Weese said. “They had some kids that got hot.”

Tori Northcutt scored 13 and Malouff added 11 for the Zias.