Zias can’t overcome slow start

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson ENMU senior Til-Lois Fifer attempts to get to the basket against Central Oklahoma’s Alex Richardson during Monday’s Lone Star Conference women’s crossover game at Greyhound Arena.

Dave Wagner

PORTALES — It took Eastern New Mexico University’s women more than five minutes to get on the board Monday night. It was nearly eight minutes before the Zias had their first field goal.

In the end, the painfully slow start was too much to overcome and Central Oklahoma cruised to a 75-54 Lone Star Conference women’s crossover at Greyhound Arena.

The Zias (2-8) got some good play from their bench, notably senior post Kara Bible (a season-best 11 points), senior guard Vanessa O’Neal of Clovis (nine points, three assists) and senior forward Til-Lois Fifer (five points and a game-high 12 rebounds). Junior Karen Grant added nine points.

But they managed only 17 points from their starters — three of whom failed to score — and they actually logged far fewer minutes (74) than the reserves (126).

“I was real tickled with the way the seniors (off the bench) played tonight,” ENMU coach Linden Weese said. “They came in and did a good job.”

Senior forward Ashley Beckley had 19 points, junior guard Courtney Allen added 15 on 5-of-7 from 3-point range and junior center Alex Richardson had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Bronchos (6-3).

“It’s a weird league,” Bronchos coach Guy Hardaker said. “We’re still trying to figure out if we’re any good. That’s why you’ve got to bring it every night.”

The Zias were 0-for-7 from the field with six turnovers before O’Neal snagged a long defensive rebound, dribbled into the forecourt and hit a pull-up shot at the 12:16 mark. When she added a free throw nearly two minutes later, ENMU trailed only 11-7.

Eventually, the Zias warmed up — after going 2-for-19, they hit a stretch where they went 10-for-13 and were within 10 points with 13 1/2 minutes left. A 3-pointer by Allen, though, sparked a 14-0 run that help Central Oklahoma pull away.

ENMU tried to press the Bronchos with some success, but not enough to get back in the game.

“We came down and we were pretty patient,” said Hardaker, whose team went 11-for-24 from 3-point range primarily against a 2-3 zone. “When you get the defense all spread out, it’s easier to run your zone offense.”

Behind Bible, sophomore guard Krista Ford had 10 points for the Zias.

Hardaker said he was most concerned about leading scorer Precious Herrin, who finished with a season-low seven points, and senior forward-guard Cat Clay, who went scoreless and remained 17 points short of 1,000 for her ENMU career.

“Our focus was to make Precious earn her baskets,” Hardaker said. “And we were able to stay real close with Cat Clay.”

ENMU returns to action Jan. 6 with a crossover game against East Central at Ada, Okla.