ABILENE — Shooting for their first American Southwest Conference win streak of the season, the Howard Payne Lady Jackets were upended by the Hardin-Simmons Cowgirls, 68-64, Thursday night at the Mabee Complex.
Coming off Saturday’s 80-69 home victory over Sul Ross that moved HPU (5-12, 2-6) from last place to fourth place in the ASC West Division, Thursday’s loss to second-place Hardin-Simmons (11-6, 5-4) dropped the Lady Jackets into a fifth-place tie with Sul Ross — one half-game behind McMurry.
Trailing by nine points with 3:27 to go, the Lady Jackets held Hardin-Simmons scoreless for the next 3:15. Howard Payne was able to shave the deficit to two points with 12 seconds remaining, where the Cowgirls sank a pair of free throws to push the advantage back to two possessions.
The biggest difference in the game came at the free throw line, where Hardin-Simmons sank 14 of 17 attempts (82 percent) compared to Howard Payne’s 6 of 13 (46 percent) effort.
The Lady Jackets converted 40 percent (25 of 62) of their shots compared to 40 percent (23 of 58) by the Cowgirls. Each team knocked down eight three-pointers and committed 13 turnovers, but Howard Payne owned a 41-37 edge in rebounds.
Chelsey Harris scored a game-high 25 points to pace the Howard Payne effort followed by Anastasia Willis’ double-double of 17 points and 14 rebounds. ASC West Player of the Week Lily Janek chipped in eight points while Caprica Brooks finished with six, Salina Ali contributed five and Julissa Ibarra finished with three points.
Hardin-Simmons received 17 points from Taylor Gaffney, 12 from Karlea Ritchie, a double-double of 11 points and 14 boards from Keilee Burke, 11 points from Kaitlyn Ellis, eight from Maria Fernandez, six from Kiana Reed and three points from Ryan Bush.
Knotted at 10 after one quarter, Howard Payne fell behind 36-31 at halftime and faced a 57-49 deficit heading into the fourth period.
Still down 66-57 with just over two minutes to go, HPU made its move.
Harris scored on a layup with 1:59 to go as the Lady Jackets crept within seven points, 66-59. The Cowgirls came up empty on the other end, and Willis drained a three-pointer to close the gap to 66-62 with 1:03 left.
Hardin-Simmons committed turnovers on its next two possession, and after a turnover of their own and a missed three-pointer with 21 seconds to go, the Lady Jackets finally reduced the deficit to a bucket, 66-64, following Harris’ jumper with 16 seconds remaining.
With 12 seconds to go, HSU’s Burke was fouled and drained two free throws, extended the Cowgirls’ lead back to two possessions. The Lady Jackets were only able to get one shot off the rest of the game, a two-point jumper that was off the mark with one second left.
Howard Payne will attempt to bounce back at 1 p.m. Saturday as it visits McMurry (6-12, 3-6), which is coming off a 90-67 victory over Sul Ross (4-13, 2-6).