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Red-hot basketball team looks for 14th straight win

San Antonio – The red-hot St. Mary’s University women’s basketball team looks for its 14th straight win Thursday night when they host the University of Texas-Permian Basin in a Heartland Conference matchup, starting at 5:30 p.m. at Bill Greehey Arena.

Few fans remember that the Rattlers started the season out 1-4. That’s because since a Nov. 24 loss to second-ranked Concordia-St. Paul the Rattlers have won 13 straight games, the second longest win streak in school history. Their hot play has led to a 5-0 start in Heartland Conference play, which puts them one game up on Incarnate Word and two games ahead of Oklahoma Panhandle State and St. Edward’s.

Natalie Gamez (Jr., San Antonio) leads the way for the Rattlers, averaging 17.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. She is shooting 50.3 percent from the field, including 37.7 percent from three-point range. She is nationally ranked in six categories, including a 45th place ranking in points per game. Rachel Jones (Jr., Little Rock, Ark.) is the only other Rattler scoring in double figures with 10.2 points per game. They rank first in the Heartland in scoring, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and three-point field goal percentage. Defensively they are allowing their opponents to hit on just 40.0 percent of their shots and are forcing more than 20 turnovers per game.

This will be just the third meeting all-time between the teams. The Rattlers won the first two meetings last season, defeating the Falcons 71-51 in San Antonio and 70-62 in Odessa. The two teams will meet again on Feb. 16 in Odessa. UTPB brings a 1-18 record into Thursday’s play.

The men’s team will follow the women at 7:30 p.m. and will also play the Falcons in a Heartland Conference matchup. Tonight’s game is the start of a four-game homestand for the Rattlers, who have a 6-3 mark at home this season. St. Mary’s has had an up-and-down campaign this season, with no win streak longer than three games and no losing streak longer than three games as well. After winning four of five, including a win at the University of the Incarnate Word, the Rattlers fell by a 67-65 count in overtime at Texas A&M-International.

Marcus Hill (Sr., Longview) leads the balanced St. Mary’s offensive attack, with 11.0 points per game. Latez Williams (Sr., Hamilton, Ohio) is the only other player scoring in double figures with 10.9 points per game. Six players are averaging seven or more points per game for the team that averages 67.7 points per contest. They allow just 62.2 points per game, the top total in the Heartland Conference and the 14th best total in the nation. Opponents are shooting just 40.0 percent this season, the 18th best total in the nation.

The two teams met for the first time last season, with each picking up a win. The Rattlers won the first-ever meeting between the teams, 76-50, in San Antonio. UTPB won the later meeting in Odessa by a 79-67. The teams will meet again on Feb. 16 in Odessa. The Falcons are 6-10 overall, but have won four of their last five games.