Zias rout UT-Permian Basin

Freedom New Mexico: Mickey Winfield Eastern New Mexico University guard Lace Clark, front, and fellow freshman Celeste Belizario try to wrestle the ball away from University of Texas-Permian Basin guard Paige Traw during the first half of Friday night’s game at Greyhound Arena.The Zia

By Dave Wagner, Freedom New Mexico

Linden Weese knows his Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball team will go as far as its shooting will taken them.

The Zias rode a 10-for-22 performance from 3-point range and a solid defensive effort Friday night to a 69-51 win over Texas-Permian Basin at Greyhound Arena.

Sophomore Cat Clay and freshman Lace Clark scored 13 points each and combined for seven of the Zias’ 3-pointers. The Zias (2-1) led all the way, but Clark’s four-point play with 11:33 left probably served as the backbreaker for the Falcons (1-3).

“We needed that,” said Weese, who will take his team to Puerto Rico next week for three games against Division II competition from that island. “Obviously, how well we shoot will tell us how well we play.”

Clay broke the scoring ice with a 3-pointer in the first minute, and Clark followed suit shortly as the Zias opened a 12-2 advantage in just over four minutes.

UTPB, which got within five points once midway through the half, trailed by 16 at the break and never got closer than nine the rest of the way.
“We started out pretty strong,” said Clark, who hails from Keene, Texas, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. “We just need to keep it strong and not let them back in the game.”

The Zias did a solid job on Permian Basin’s two leading scorers, freshman guard Tammy Acosta and sophomore forward Callie Norris. Acosta finished with 22 points, but had to work hard most of the night against a variety of defenders, while Norris scored just eight.

Junior guard Vanessa O’neal did not score for the Zias, but her defense clearly bothered Acosta.

“Vanessa’s really improved her game,” Weese said. “She’s really going to be a factor for us this year.”

Sophomore guard Tori Northcutt added 12 points for ENMU, while sophomore forward Til-Lois Fifer came off the bench for 11.

The Falcons, in their second year in Division II after moving from NAIA competition, are playing five consecutive games against Lone Star Conference South Division teams. So far they’re 1-2, with games against Abilene Christian and Tarleton next week.

“I thought, with the travel, we fought and played hard,” first-year UTPB coach Adam Collins said. “We just kept losing their shooters in the first half.

“It was (12-2), and from that point I think we played them pretty even.”

Clark is looking forward to next week’s trip, although the Zias have no idea what quality of competition they’ll face.

“All we know is they’re decent players,” she said. “We’re just going to have to play our game.”