WICHITA FALLS — MSU Texas has relied on its defense all season. That defense shined on Thursday night as the Mustangs pulled off a huge 66-61 upset over No. 14 West Texas A&M in front of 1,007 fans.
“I’m proud of the kids," MSU Texas head coach Noel Johnson said. "They responded to the challenge that I put before them. I’m very proud.”
Tyesha Taylor made a jumper for West Texas A&M (16-3, 8-3) to give the Lady Buffs a 59-57 lead with 2:38 remaining in the game. That would be the final field goal for WT as MSU Texas (7-11, 4-7) took the lead they would never relinquish when Liz Cathcart nailed a 3-pointer with 2:21 left in the game.
“It (defense) was huge and our rebounding,” Johnson said of the final 2:38 of the game. “We knew that they were going to try and get (Tyesha) Taylor the ball inside and we also knew they were going to try and get (Lexy) Hightower a look. Our kids stepped up in those two minutes and really did a good job.”
West Texas A&M entered the contest averaging 55.8 percent effective field goal percentage for the season. The Mustangs held the Lady Buffs to a paltry 47.1 percent effective field goal percentage as WT only made 1-of-9 3-point attempts.
MSU Texas also used its defensive pressure to force 24 turnovers. WT came into the game only turning the ball over 16 times per contest.
“The bottom line is they (WT) didn’t have shots fall for them and I think that kind of flustered them a little bit and I think they started to try to create a little bit more and went a little bit more outside of their wheelhouse,” said Johnson. “They’re (a) very good execution team. They don’t make a lot of mistakes.”
Chelcie Kizart led MSU Texas as she scored 15 points. Liz Cathcart added 11 points and Haevyn Risley secured eight rebounds for the Mustangs.
Deleyah Harris of West Texas A&M led all scorers with 18 points while Tyesha Taylor added 11 points and Megan Gamble grabbed eight rebounds for the Lady Buffs.
Taylor and Lexy Hightower entered the game averaging a combined 30 points per game for WT. The Mustangs held the pair to 20 combined points on only 8-of-20 shooting from the floor.
It was a full team defensive effort to hold the WT stars in check.
“We wanted to stop the big two (Tyesha Taylor and Lexy Hightower), two great players in our league. Hannah (Reynolds), Annette Dukes, Liz Cathcart, and Haevyn Risley drew that card with (Tyesha) Taylor and did a good job,” Johnson said.
RARE SERIES WIN:
West Texas A&M has owned the overall series against MSU Texas regardless of location.
The Mustangs victory snapped an 11-game WT win streak in the series. The last win for MSU Texas was a 77-64 victory at home in January 2015.
MSU Texas improved to 18-54 overall in the series and 12-21 on their home floor.
MSU Texas does not have very long to celebrate this win as they host another important conference game on Saturday afternoon when Eastern New Mexico will visit at 2 p.m.
“We don’t want a hangover game," Johnson said. "We want to continue to do what we do and not be satisfied. “Eastern New Mexico is a tough team. We don’t match up well with them. They’re big, they’re athletic and so we’re going to back to the drawing board and put a game plan together and get after it tomorrow.”
West Texas A&M will look to begin another winning streak on Saturday afternoon as they travel to Lawton, Okla. to face Cameron at 2 p.m.
Cory Hogue is Dave Campbell's Texas Basketball small college correspondent follow him on Twitter at @HoagieSports and be sure to visit his website (linked below) for more coverage of Division II and Division III collegiate athletics.