Red-Hot Rattlers Wrap up Home Slate This Week: With wins in three of their last four games, St. Mary’s is peaking at the right time as they try to clinch a berth in the Heartland Conference Tournament. The Rattlers will finish their home schedule this week with games against Texas A&M-International on Saturday and St. Edward’s on Monday. St. Mary’s is coming off a big 51-48 win over Montana State-Billings on Monday. Ashton Benford has been especially strong of late and was rewarded, earning Heartland Player of the Week honors this week. The Heartland playoff race is nearly wrapped up with Billings already in and St. Edward’s and Incarnate Word needing just one win to clinch. The Rattlers would all but clinch with a win over St. Edward’s on Monday night. Oklahoma Panhandle still has an outside shot at a playoff berth, but must win out.
About Texas A&M-International: TAMIU comes into Saturday’s play on a high, having won their last four games to improve to 7-9 against Division II opponents this season. They are coming off a 94-83 win over Texas-Permian Basin on Tuesday. However, the majority of their success has come at home, while the Dustdevils have just a 3-6 record outside Laredo. Vannessa Villarreal and Jermina Tomlinson have combined to score over half the teams points this season. Villarreal is averaging 20.0 per game, while Tomlinson is scoring 18.1. Nicole Gipson is scoring 9.6 per game, but no other player on the team is averaging more than 5.9 points per game. As a team the Dustdevils score 66.4 per game, while allowing 65.7. They are shooting 43.5 percent from the field, while their opponents hit on 37.5 percent.
St. Mary’s vs. Texas A&M-International: The Dustdevils lead the series between the teams, 2-1. TAMIU won the first meeting this season, 61-51, in Laredo. The only previous meeting between the teams in San Antonio came during the 2004-05 season, with the Dustdevils winning 74-73. The Rattlers won the first meeting between the teams in Laredo, 89-62 last season.
About St. Edward’s: The Hilltoppers had been much improved of late, but took one on the chin Monday in a 69-49 loss to Tarleton State. That loss dropped them to 7-15 and ended a streak of four wins in five games for the Hilltoppers. However they have been strong in Heartland play, standing in second at 4-2. No player is scoring in double figures for the Hilltoppers, who average just 56.8 points per game this season. Sophia Holguin leads the team with 8.2 points per game. The Hilltoppers give up 60.6 points per game. SEU is committing over 20 turnovers per game, but forces over 18 per contest. They are outrebounding their opponents 38.4 to 33.1. They are shooting 36.8 percent from the field, while their opponents are hitting on 39.8 percent.
St. Mary’s vs. St. Edward’s: The Rattlers lead the all-time series between the teams 35-23. St. Mary’s won the first meeting between the teams this season, 59-52 in overtime in Austin. The Rattlers have won the last three meetings, including a 63-59 decision last season in the first round of the Heartland Tournament in Austin. St. Mary’s won the last meeting in San Antonio, 68-56, in 2005-06.
Rattlers Upset Heartland Leader Billings: Charlena Rodez hit a pair of free throws with one second left and a desperation shot by Shantell Marquis fell short as St. Mary’s held on to defeat Montana State, 51-48. Rodez led the Rattlers with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field. The free throws that iced the game for the Rattlers were the first of the game for Rodez. There was just 1.6 seconds left on the clock when she drained both. The only other Rattler to score in double figures was Natalie Gamez, who came off the bench to score 11 points. Ashton Benford had eight points on 4-of-7 shooting and pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds. The teams battled back and forth in the first half, with neither taking control until the Rattlers finally went on a run late in the period. With 8:11 left to play in the half MSUB took a 16-15 lead on an Alira Carpenter layup. Dawn Killian responded with a three-pointer to give the Rattlers an 18-16 advantage. That keyed a 13-3 run for the Rattlers to end the half and gave them a 28-19 lead at the break. The Yellowjackets made several runs in the second half, cutting the Rattler advantage to just two three times and to one once.
Benford Named Heartland Player of the Week: Ashton Benford was named Heartland Conference Women’s Basketball co-Player of the Week for her play against Montana State-Billings and Lincoln. Benford shared the honor with Nia Torru of the University of the Incarnate Word. Benford nearly averaged a double-double for the Rattlers, picking up 11.0 points and 9.5 rebounds per game as St. Mary’s went 1-1. She scored 16 points and added 11 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season. She hit on 7-of-10 shots from the field against the Yellowjackets.