Courtesy: UTSA Athletics Communications
KATY — Top seed McNeese State outscored No. 4 UTSA by 19 points and shot 56 percent from the field in the second half to erase a three-point halftime deficit and the Cowgirls raced to 66-50 victory during Thursday's second semifinal of the State Farm Southland Conference Tournament.
Senior Alysse Davis led the Roadrunners (16-15) with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range, while fellow senior Ashleigh Franklin, who was named to the All-Tournament Team, added 10 to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.
Caitlyn Baggett paced McNeese State (25-6) with a game-high 20 points, which was aided by a 10-of-13 effort from the free-throw line.
"I want to give McNeese State a lot of credit," UTSA head coach Rae Rippetoe-Blair said after the season-ending setback. "We were able to take the lead going into halftime, but in the second half, McNeese shot lights out. We just couldn’t get it stopped, but I have to say we played hard and with a lot of heart. There was no doubt we could play with this team. We tried to press but just couldn’t get our shots to fall."
"We were emotionally fired up for this game," Davis said "We were playing the No. 1 seed and, at times, it felt like it was slipping, but when you’re out there, you can’t lose focus. I kept telling Ashleigh, 'we’re not going to catch up if we keep tripping up, so we have to get stops.' They hit some key shots and I take the blame for that, but it never crossed my mind that we were out of it. At some point you win some and you lose some. Unfortunately, now it’s over for us."
Just like the first meeting between the two teams three weeks ago, the Cowgirls used their full-court pressure to force turnovers and create easy offense in the game’s opening minutes, as they scored nine of the contest's first 12 points thanks to baskets from four different players.
A jumper by Raiyawna Gatlin made it 16-10 before UTSA turned up some defensive pressure of its own.
Senior Kelsey Ansley’s layup ignited a 14-3 stretch that put the Roadrunners ahead for the rest of the stanza. UTSA held the Cowgirls to just one field goal for nearly nine minutes during the run and Franklin scored eight of her points.
Trailing 24-19, the Cowgirls got a 3-pointer from Ashlyn Baggett and an inside basket by Ja’Niqua Kendrix to tie the score before Davis connected on her second 3-pointer, which gave the Birds a 27-24 halftime advantage.
After an inside basket by sophomore Lyndi Thorman started the second half, the Cowgirls began to heat up and they scored the next five points to tie the score for the final time. UTSA regained the lead on another Thorman basket before a Ne’Aisha Anderson 3-pointer put McNeese in front for good.
Davis kept the Roadrunners close with a 3-pointer and jumper, each time pulling the Roadrunners within two, but Ashlyn Baggett nailed back-to-back 3-balls for a 44-36 lead with 11:36 to play.
"I felt like we were in a position to win the game," Franklin said.
"Even when we were behind in the second half, I felt we could win the
game. No matter what happened in the first game, that was behind us. We
played our heart out and things just didn’t end up how we had hoped."
The Cowgirls did not let up and answered every come-back attempt with a basket and they held UTSA to just three field goals in the final 10 minutes to put the game out of reach.
With less than a minute to play, Kendrix gave McNeese its largest lead of the game, 20, before a basket by junior Ashley Gardner and 3-pointer by Davis closed the final gap of 16.
UTSA shot 33 percent and was outrebounded 17-12 in the second half.