Defense lifts No. 25 Lady Buffs past No. LCU in key conference showdown
West Texas A&M‘s Tiana Parker, left, and Abby Spurgin block the shot of LCU post Maddie Chitsey during a Lone Star Conference game at the First United Bank Center on Saturday. [Tom Carver/ Press Pass Sports]
Gritty defense and timely shooting down the stretch was enough for No. 25 West Texas A&M to hold off No. 2 Lubbock Christian, 64-56, in what felt like more of an NCAA Tournament game than a regular season conference contest in front of an electric 1,654 fans at the First United Bank Center on Saturday.
The Lady Buffs (16-3 overall) run their winning streak to nine straight games, while taking over sole possession of first place in their respective Lone Star Conference division at 9-1.
LCU (14-2 overall) quickly finds themselves on a two-game losing skid after starting the season at 14-0. The Lady Chaps also fall a game behind WT in the division standings at 8-2.
“It felt like an NCAA Tournament game,” said WT coach Kristen Mattio, who earned her first career win against LCU. “That just shows the strength of our conference. These are the type of games that prepares for tournament type games. I loved our crowd the entire way through. We couldn’t have done it without them, they were electric.”
This game lived up to the billing of two teams that are chasing an LSC title. It was physical, both defenses were aggressive, shots were hard to come by.
Two key factors lifted WT to this victory. The Lady Buffs presence in the paint, and the timely shooting of Megan Gamble on the perimeter.
WT broke open a 27-25 halftime lead thanks to a 16-1 third quarter run to take a commanding 43-26 lead. The defense did its job not allowing an LCU field goal until the 2:37 mark of the third quarter.
When LCU rallied back in the fourth quarter, Gamble and stepped up, knocking down a 3-pointer or Braylyn Dollar made clutch free-throws when it counted.
Defensively, the Lady Buffs swarmed the lane, blocking a season-high 13 shots led by senior post Tiana Parker, who had seven.
WT also dominated the boards, out rebounding the Lady Chaps, 44-30.
“We did a great job rebounding,” Mattio said. “We knew it was going to be a 50-50 ballgame. We knew it was going to come down to defense, and Tiana Parker, Abby Spurgin and Braylyn Dollar did their jobs. They are special players.”
West Texas A&M’s Megan Gamble (3) looks to drive during the third quarter against LCU on Saturday. [Tom Carver/ Press Pass Sports]
Gamble finished with a career-high 17 points, going 4 of 5 from beyond the arc, 5 of 8 from the free-throw line, adding three assists.
To go with her seven blocks, Parker added 13 points and five boards, while Abby Spurgin chipped in with 11 boards and five blocks.
Dollar was also key with 13 points, going an impressive 11 of 12 from the line.
Nazareth graduate Allie Schulte had a team-high 15 points for LCU.
Inside the boxscore
WT finished the game going 18-of-51 (35.3%) from the floor including 7-of-19 (36.8%) from behind the arc, and 21-of-26 (80.8%) from the free throw line.
The Lady Chaps went 16-of-52 (30.8%) from the field in the game including 5-of-16 (31.3%) from deep, and 19-of-23 (82.6%) from the charity stripe.
The Lady Buffs hit the road for an LSC matchup at Texas A&M-Kingsville set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday.