LAREDO – Ashton Benford scored a season-high 18 points and the St. Mary’s University Rattlers broke open a close game in the second half as they defeated Texas A&M International University, 70-51, for their 13th straight win in Heartland Conference women’s basketball action Thursday night at the Kinesiology and Convocation Center.

Benford (Jr., Waxahachie) hit on 7-of-14 shots from the field to score the season-high in points. She also pulled down six rebounds and made two steals in her 28 minutes of action. Natalie Gamez (Jr., San Antonio) was the only other Rattler to score in double figures with 10 points. Mallory Moeller (Fr., Seguin) had nine points and a team-high 10 rebounds.

The Rattlers took control in the early going, holding a five-point edge at 14-9 after a Moeller lay-up with 12:01 left to play in the first half. However, the Dustdevils responded with a 10-1 run to take a 19-15 lead with 5:57 in the period. Benford took over after that. She scored 11 of her 18 points in a 15-3 run that gave the Rattlers back the lead at 30-22 with 1:23 in the first half. The Rattlers would settle for a five point edge at 30-25 at the break.

In the second half the Rattlers wasted no time in taking control. St. Mary’s started the half with a 10-2 run to push their lead into double digits. The Dustdevils made one run, cutting the Rattler advantage to just three points with 11:41 left to play, but St. Mary’s responded with a 9-0 run to make it a 14-point game and were never threatened after that.

In the game the Rattlers hit on 43.5 percent (27-62) of their shots from the field and 75.0 percent (12-16) from the free throw line. They outrebounded the Dustdevils 44 to 40 and held TAMIU to just 30.4 percent (17-56) shooting from the field.

St. Mary’s is now 14-4 overall and 5-0 in Heartland Conference play, one game ahead of the University of the Incarnate Word, which defeated St. Edward’s University Thursday night. Texas A&M International is now 5-11, 1-3. The Rattlers will return to action on Thursday, January 31, when they host the University of Texas-Permian Basin at 5:30 p.m. in the first game of a men’s/women’s doubleheader at Bill Greehey Arena.

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