from Staff Reports
SAN MARCOS – The game was billed as a battle of two likely contenders for the Southland Conference Championship, but turned into a one-sided affair. The Texas State Bobcats (6-7, 0-0) opened conference play against the Northwestern State Lady Demons (7-6, 0-0) at home, Thursday, in the friendly confines of Strahan Colliseum. Going into this contest the ‘Cats were a perfect 7-0 at home. An 87-58 victory added another to the “W” column in front of the 677 fans in attendance.
Prior to tip-off Coach Suzanne Fox commented about Northwestern State, “The one thing we know as we look at their stats and watch their tapes – they can really shoot the basketball,” she added that, “We’re going to have to have a tremendous defensive effort to keep their offense under control.”
The Bobcats followed Coach Fox’s game plan and Northwestern State, a team that is known for their three-point shooting prowess, was held to just 14% from the arc, and less than 40% overall
Sophomore forward, Aimee Hilburn (8 pts) knocked down the opening shot and Jr. forward, Kim Cessna (9 pts) hit two quick jumpers to start off the game with a 7-0 run by the Texas State Bobcats. Some tenacious defense had the ‘Cats up 11-4, but early fouls forced them to ease up a bit. Despite the Bobcats’ loosened defense, mistakes continued to confound the Lady Demons and with 10:31 remaining in the first, Texas State extended their lead 19-8.
Northwestern State couldn’t get anything going until Sr. guard, Tena Matthews dropped a three with just over eight minutes remaining in the half that cut the lead to seven. Brooke DeGrate (14 pts) ended Northwestern State’s rally with a ten point rally of her own, putting the ‘Cats up 34-14 with just 4:59 left in the half. With 0:28 to go in the first, Texas State stretched the lead to 26 points marking the largest margin of the half. Texas State headed into the locker room up 48-22.
Tamarra Evans-Sluga shooting one of her two three-pointers (staff photos)
In the first stanza, scoring for the ‘Cats was led by Sr. guard, Brooke DeGrate who put up 12 points in 15 minutes of play, while Jr. guard, Tamarra Evans-Sluga (9 pts) came off the bench for 7 points in her 9 minutes. Northwestern State’s Tena Matthews accounted for half of the Lady Demons points with 11. The Bobcats shot the lights out in the first half, putting in 57% (20/35) of their attempts to a dismal 35% (9/26) for the Lady Demons. Texas State scored from long range even more efficiently hitting 60% (6/10) from three-point range compared to Northwestern State’s 11% (1/9).
Texas State, continuing where they left off, extended the margin to 33 points just five minutes into the second half. Northwestern State fought back in spurts, but time and again were pushed back by tough battles in the paint. Tena Matthews attempted to carry the Lady Demons back into contention herself, but the lack of teammate scoring saw her visibly frustrated at times and forcing shots enroute to her game high 26 points. With 4:43 remaining in the game, Northwestern State cut the lead to 23, but couldn’t manage to get any closer.
With the game well in hand, Texas State Fr. guard, Mallory Williams (3 pts) put the finishing touch on the victory with a steal to go with her three-pointer and two rebounds in the final two minutes.
The loss for Northwestern State leaves Head Coach Jennifer Graf 0-5 in her career versus Texas State and more importantly, leaves her team at the bottom of conference play looking up at the Bobcats.
On extending the home win record to 8-0 this year Sr. guard, Joyce Ekworomadu (15 pts) said, “..we take a lot of pride when we play at home definitely. It’s a tradition and we just like to keep that moving on through the rest of the conference,” she added , “That’s the way we want to start our conference. I think that we did a lot of good things tonight.”
Asked if this was the team’s best performance of the season, Coach Suzanne Fox answered, “Well, its hard to compare cause, you know, the competition each game brings different things to the table… …I thought tonight we stayed with the game plan that we wanted going in tonight. I thought our team played within what we wanted to do.”
The win puts the Texas State Bobcats women atop the Southland Conference with 15 more games before the SLC Tournament in March. Next up for the Bobcats will be the University of Central Arkansas Sugar Bears (2-11) on Saturday, January 12 at home.
Northwestern State (7-7, 0-1) – Tena Matthews 26, Ashli Barnum 14, Brooke Shepherd 5, Akilah Givens 4
Texas State (7-7, 1-0) – Joyce Ekworomadu 15, Brooke DeGrate 14, Kim Cessna 9, Tamarra Evans-Sluga , Aimee Hilburn 8, Victoria Davis 7, Ashley Cole 7