Slow start spells trouble for Tarleton in loss at Lamar
BEAUMONT – Tarleton will have to wait another day to secure its first win over a Division I school in the 2020-21 season after falling to Lamar 73-58 on Saturday at the Montagne Center.
The loss dropped the Texans' record to 2-2 and snapped a two-game winning streak.
An uncharacteristically cold start offensively put Tarleton behind the eight ball against a motivated Cardinals squad, which entered the game with an 0-4 record and was playing its home-opener.
The Texans connected on just three field goals inside the arc in the first half and were held to 23.3 percent shooting (7-30). Lamar led 19-12 after the first quarter and used a 9-4 scoring flurry over the final four minutes of the second period to take a 12-point lead into halftime.
"There were times I thought we got really, really good looks, but we just couldn't get the ball in the basket," said head coach Misty Wilson.
Tarleton's scoring output and field goal percentage for the game (31.5%) were season-lows. The Texans entered the contest shooting 51.2% from the field – tops in the Western Athletic Conference – and averaging 75.7 points per game.
The Cardinals immediately applied full-court pressure to freshman Iyana Dorsey, who was averaging 17 points per game before tipoff, and forced other Texan players to initiate offense. The 5-6 guard finished with seven points on 1-7 shooting for the game.
Lamar employed a guard-heavy lineup, but the Texans were unable to capitalize on a noticeable size advantage early on. The Cardinals had just one player 6-0-or-taller compared to four for Tarleton.
"Our post players in the first half were 2-14," Wilson said. "Got some good looks, and generated some good shots, but just couldn't put them in."
Dorsey also dealt with foul trouble early on as did the Texans' guards throughout the afternoon. Dorsey picked up her third foul late in the first half and Alexa Hoy and Jayci Morton played with three fouls apiece following the intermission.
The Texans received a boost at the guard position with the return of Kaitlyn Guillory, however. The senior played 27 minutes off the bench and finished with seven points and four rebounds.
"I thought defensively, she got in there and made us better," Wilson said of Guillory. "She had some really good looks, I know she's disappointed in her shots, but her shots were going in and coming back out and rolling around the rim, I thought, easily, she could have had double digits shooting-wise."
Tarleton trimmed Lamar's advantage to 41-35 midway through the third quarter, but the hosts converted seven field goals over the final 5:30 of the frame to extend their lead to 14.
Lamar's field goal percentage (46.2) and rebounding figure (40) were season-highs.
"There's going to be a lot of teaching moments this year," Wilson said. "We're young, we're trying to run some different things offensively, and some of our newer players just haven't been taught defensively. We're really trying to bring some of those players around and understand what it takes to be a great defensive team, which is something we've prided ourselves on.
"It's going to take us some time, but our girls are really battling, and I really appreciate their effort. I know they're going to use this and only continue to improve."
Senior Lucy Benson led Tarleton's effort on the glass and on hustle plays. Benson, who is the only player on the roster to have spent her entire career with Tarleton, had a team-high eight rebounds to go along with four steals and one blocked shot. Benson's 35 minutes played were the most of any player on either side.
The Texans' frontcourt depth took a hit in the game's closing seconds when junior Emily Cunningham came down awkwardly on one of Tarleton's final offensive possessions. Tarleton was without forward Marissa Escamilla for the third straight game and just nine players entered the game.
"Seeing Emily Cunningham go down late we're kind of running out of bodies down there," Wilson said. "But if we have five players on the floor who play as hard as Lucy Benson does and can defend the way she does and rebound the way she does, we're going to be in really good shape."
Cunningham scored nine of her team-high 12 points in the final period and was a perfect 3-3 from the field before exiting the game.
Tarleton now heads to Tulsa, Oklahoma on Thursday for a game against Oral Roberts. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. inside the Mabee Center.