The Howard Payne Lady Jackets’ five-game win streak, and flawless start to American Southwest Conference action, came to an end Saturday with their first loss at the Brownwood Coliseum this season, 61-57 at the hands of the UT-Dallas Lady Comets.
Despite the defeat, the Lady Jackets (7-5, 4-1) head into the Christmas break atop the ASC West standings. UT-Dallas (5-2, 3-0), meanwhile, continues to lead the pack in the East and is now the lone ASC squad without a conference loss.
“Our girls went on break a little too early,” Lady Jackets head coach Meia Daniels-Netter said while assessing her team’s performance. “Hopefully they get this out of their systems, enjoy their break and come back a better team after this.”
For the second consecutive outing the Lady Jackets struggled from the floor, even more so Saturday than in Thursday’s 59-47 triumph over Ozarks. Howard Payne converted just 33 percent (20 of 61) of its field goals, 27 percent (6 of 22) of its three-pointers and 52 percent (11 of 21) of its free throws.
“The biggest thing today is we shot around 30 percent and we haven’t had one of those games in a long time,” Daniels-Netter said. “When you force 29 turnovers you’d think that would lead to a pretty good win, but when you can’t put the ball in the bucket it’s hard to win games like that.”
Micah Cisneroz led Howard Payne with 23 points despite missing most of the third period with an ankle injury, which she returned from late in the quarter. No other Lady Jacket reached double figures as Djimonii Jackson tallied eight points followed by seven from Arriyanna Forch, six from Dominique Featherstone, four each from Sarahi Castillo and Valarie Matlock, three from Sabrina Ochoa and two points from Presley McKethan.
UT-Dallas converted 41 percent (21 of 51) of its shots, just 17 percent (2 of 12) of its treys, but 68 percent (17 of 25) of its free throws. The Lady Comets also owned a commanding 45-36 edge in rebounds. Micaela Gonzales finished with 18 points for UT-Dallas while Zavier Landry added 15.
Howard Payne struggled on the offensive end all day, and gave up the first seven points in each half. Still, the Lady Jackets led as late as 2:24 in the contest, when a pair of Featherstone free throws gave HPU a 57-55 edge. But the Lady Jackets failed to score the rest of the way, yielding the game’s final six points.
The Lady Jackets trailed 11-4 with 4:12 left in the opening stanza, but reeled off eight points — with six coming from Cisneroz — to grab a 12-11 edge just two minutes later. At the end of the quarter, UT-Dallas had regained a 14-12 lead, but Howard Payne controlled the second period en route to a 29-23 halftime edge.
Over the final 6:51 of the first half the Lady Jackets allowed just five points, scoring 14 in the process to take control of the game. Cisneroz sparked the surge with five points followed by four from Castillo, three from Ochoa and two from Matlock.
Howard Payne went scoreless the first 3:40 of the second half, which allowed UT-Dallas to regain a 30-29 lead. The game see-sawed back and forth the rest of the way with no team leading by more than six points.
With the Lady Comets in front, 48-42, with 7:30 left, a three from Cisneroz, a trio of free throws from Featherstone and a bucket by Forch pushed Howard Payne back in front, 50-48, with 6:05 left. But the Lady Jackets mustered just two field goals the rest of the way.
“Defensively we’re still there,” Daniels-Netter said. “Offensively, as coaches we ran every play we could think of to get them going today, we just couldn’t put the ball in the basket. We haven’t lost very many quarters this season and today we only won one, but still lost by just four points. That shows them how good they can be when they get the job done.”
The Lady Jackets visit Division I Lamar on Dec. 29 then resume ASC action at Louisiana College on Jan. 3.