ACU beats Zias for 22nd time in row

CNJ staff

ABILENE, Texas — No matter the records, there’s something about seeing those Abilene Christian uniforms that seems to do in Eastern New Mexico University’s women.

With the Wildcats struggling to stay out of the Lone Star Conference cellar and ENMU fighting to make the conference’s postseason tournament, ACU erased an early 3-0 deficit with consecutive 3-pointers by sophomore forward Renata Marquez and sophomore guard Mack Lankford and never looked back en route to a 74-61 win on Saturday afternoon.

It was the Wildcats’ 22nd consecutive win over the Zias (8-14, 6-10), who have not won in the series since sweeping ACU in the 2000-01 campaign. ENMU lost the earlier matchup this season in double overtime 92-85 at Greyhound Arena.

Lankford, who struggled in that game and left late with a shoulder injury, scored 31 points for the Wildcats, her third 30-point game of the season and sixth of her career. Lankford also had seven rebounds, three assists and four steals.

Sophomore center Kelsey Smith added 15 points while Marquez finished with 12 for the Wildcats (9-13, 4-12).

Senior guard Tori Northcutt tied a career high set in December 2009 with 16 points for the Zias, including four 3-pointers. Senior forward Precious Herrin added 11 points while senior guard Kiara Tate, held about eight points under her average with four points, posted a career-best and game-high seven assists.

Senior guard Karen Grant’s 3-pointer 30 seconds into the game staked the Zias to their only lead. Marquez tied it 10 seconds later, and Lankford followed with a trey on the Wildcats’ next trip.

ACU went on to score 11 consecutive points before Herrin stopped the run by hitting a pair of free throws.

Herrin’s 3-point play pulled ENMU to 13-12 with 14:32 to go in the half, but Marquez buried another 3 on the next trip to kick off a 7-0 Wildcats run. ACU put together another 8-0 run for a 15-point lead before junior guard Hannah Altheide’s jumper for the Zias made it 38-25 at halftime.

The Zias opened the second half on a 7-2 run, but Smith scored three baskets as the Wildcats went on an 8-2 surge to lead 48-34 with less than 14 minutes to play.