|Tougher Than Expected|
If records were any indication of the predicted outcome of Tuesday night’s TMC-Fresno Pacific women’s basketball game, maybe there would have no reason to play it. Besides, The Mustangs entered the game with a 14-7 overall record (7-5 GSAC) while the floundering Sunbirds were 7-15 overall and winless in 12 conference outings.
But, the pesky Sunbirds hung around for much of the evening until the final minutes when the Mustangs finally dispatched them 64-56 to record their third straight victory, one that moved them into sole possession of fifth place in the GSAC. The win also gave the Mustangs a season sweep of the Sunbirds, who they beat 73-70 in early December.
After spotting the visitors a 2-0 lead, the Mustangs took early control with an 11-0 run in a two-minute window. It started with a Theresa Brown jumper at the 17:38 mark and ended when Ella Joines sank one from behind the arc. In between, Lena Rivera sandwiched two buckets around a Morgan Schwegler jumper.
The lead grew to 17-5 with 11:11 left in the first half when Schwegler tallied on a layup before the Sunbirds showed some energy, scoring six straight points to pull within 17-11 at the 8:36 mark. A Lindsey Levanen three-pointer with 7:01 remaining snapped a four-minute scoring drought, keying an 11-3 burst that gave the Mustangs their largest lead (28-14). Brown hit three consecutive jumpers during the spurt and Rivera’s jumper with 4:18 remaining capped it off.
But, the Sunbirds refused to go away quietly. Gathering themselves, they outscored the Mustangs 13-5 over the final four minutes and went to halftime trailing by only six points, 33-27. Brown paced the Mustangs, who shot 43% from the field, with 12 first-half points. The Sunbirds outshot (44%) the Mustangs but six turnovers led to 12 points.
The Sunbirds’ late, first-half momentum carried over into the second half and kept them within upset range. Holding the Mustangs to just one point in the first 4:40 of the half, the visitors pulled to 34-33 on two Jenay Herring free throws at the 15:44 mark.
Twenty-five seconds later, Erica Inge tallied her team’s first bucket of the second half but the Mustangs couldn’t create any type of separation over the next five minutes. The Sunbirds pulled to within one point (39-38) on one more occasion and were only down by two (42-40) with 10:22 left to play.
However, it took just over a minute for the Mustangs to respond in decisive fashion. With Brown powering inside for a jumper that resulted in a three-point play and Inge connecting on a pair of free throws, the Mustangs finally had some breathing room at 47-40.
It didn’t last long, though, as the Sunbirds fought back gallantly, carving the deficit to as few as three points on two occasions over the next three minutes.
The last time made it a 56-53 game but a Joines’ layup with 4:17 remaining sparked a 6-1 spurt that gave the Mustangs their largest lead (62-54) and was the impetus for the closing run that sealed the win.
Brown, who dominated inside all evening, went 8-15 from the field and 5-5 from the line en route to a game-high 21 points while pulling down 15 rebounds. Inge was a tremendous complement, pouring in 16 points, 10 of those from the line, and dishing out a game-high eight assists. Schwegler chipped in with 10 more points.
After a 3-1 homestand, the Mustangs hit the road for their next two contests, starting with Saturday night’s tilt in Irvine against Concordia, a squad they fell to at home 82-80 on December 11.