JACKSON, TN - Following last Saturday’s 58-52 loss to Cal State San Marcos, TMC women’s head coach Dan Waldeck bemoaned his team’s inability to hit the open shot, hoping that the Mustangs’ 24% accuracy was just an anomaly.
It wasn’t. Five days later, poor shooting in the first half cost the Mustangs dearly as they fell to Freed No. 6 Hardeman of Tennessee 65-57 on the opening night of the Jackson Rotary Classic in Jackson, Tennessee. The loss was the club’s second in a row, evening its record at 2-2.
Early on, there was little indication of shooting woes to come as the Mustangs, propelled by Lena Rivera and Zoe Scott buckets, burst to a 4-0 lead. But, that was short-lived as the Mustangs missed their next 12 shots over the next 10 minutes, watching a four-point lead dissolve into a 16-6 deficit.
Senior Morgan Schwegler’s basket with 6:20 left in the first half ended the drought but an 8-2 FHU run after that pushed the deficit to 24-10. On the brink of being blown out, the Mustangs finally started to find the range. A Scott three-ball sparked an 8-4 spurt that freshman Whitney Best capped off with a three-point play, pulling the Mustangs within 28-18 at the 2:07 mark.
Just over a minute later, the Mustangs sliced the deficit into single digits (29-20) when Best scored on another basket but the Lions tallied the final four points to take a 33-20 lead at halftime.
The Mustangs, who shot just 24% (6-25) in the first half, were fortunate they didn’t trail by more but the Lions were just a little better at 30%. The big difference came at the charity stripe where the Lions held a 14-7 advantage.
The Lions continued to live at the free throw line in the second half but the Mustangs started to hit their shots on a consistent basis and almost pulled off the upset. Trailing 35-22 with 19:29 left to play, the Mustangs put their best run of the evening together, reeling off eight straight points to get within five. Schwegler sparked it with five points and Ella Joines drained a three-pointer.
The Mustangs couldn’t get any closer than that over the next few minutes while the Lions used a 6-0 burst over a four-minute span to lengthen the advantage to 49-38 with 8:39 left to play.
But, the Mustangs didn’t go away, outscoring the Lions 11-6 in a three-minute window to get within 55-49. A pair of Lindsey Levanen free throws ignited the modest skein and Best’s trifecta finished it off.
Refusing to quit, the Mustangs continued to carve into the deficit in the final few minutes of play. A pair of Scott treys closed the gap to five and then four points (61-57) but the Mustangs couldn’t generate any more offense the rest of the way while the Lions closed out the win with four free throws.
Finding the range at a 47% clip in the second half, including a 4-8 showing from behind the arc, gave the Mustangs a shot at the upset but the Lions made it count from the line, hitting 13-16 in the second half.
Scott was the only Mustang in double figures, tallying 11 points, nine of those coming from a trio of three-pointers. Schwegler added nine points while Rivera and Best chipped in with eight apiece.
Tomorrow, the Mustangs go from the frying pan into the fire when they tangle with second-ranked and five-time NAIA champion, Union.