San Antonio – The Rattlers can’t help but think their three straight 20-win seasons might start to earn them some national respect, yet here they sit unranked entering another season.
The slight figures to stick with the St. Mary’s University women’s basketball the rest of this season, and it was certainly a motivating force as they took on the nation’s seventh-ranked team Saturday night at Bill Greehey Arena.
With the thought of upset on their collective minds, the Rattlers were oh-so-close to pulling it off in a season-opening 66-62 loss to West Texas A&M University.
Behind Nicole James’ game-high 21 points, the Rattlers led by as many as five points in the second half but couldn’t overcome the Lady Buffs’ late surge.
West Texas A&M went on a 10-2 run late in the second half, flipping a 51-49 hole into a 59-53 advantage.
“If we lose to them by four, it just shows how good we can be,” said sophomore point guard Liz Boyd, who scored 15 off the bench. “And that we should really bury every team we play. It shows us that we can compete with the big dogs and not settle with no ranking and a lack of acknowledgement. We have to really be the underdog and show everyone what we really deserve.”
Even in defeat, the Rattlers (0-1) certainly made quite the impression. After trailing by as many as eight points in the first half, the Rattlers settled down against an all-too-familiar foe. The Buffs defeated St. Mary’s twice last season, including 78-50 in the NCAA South Central Regional Tournament.
Eyeing a different result this time around, the Rattlers fought back – largely behind their marksmanship from behind the 3-point line. James (Jr., Indianapolis) and Boyd (So., San Antonio) combined to go 5 for 8 from downtown.
Despite poor free-throw shooting early, St. Mary’s entered halftime trailing by a single point, 26-25. Then, with about 4:30 remaining, they really started to turn things up. Boyd slashed through the lane with a runner off the glass to take a 53-51 lead, but West Texas A&M’s Lacee Logan hit back-to-back 3s to put the Lady Buffs back up 57-53.
Moments later, James drilled a 3 from the left wing, slicing the deficit to 59-57. Following another Lady Buffs score, forward Kristen Williams (Sr., Kansas City, Mo.) then snuck a backdoor pass to Boyd, who slipped through for a layup to trail 62-59 with 50.2 seconds remaining.
But West Texas A&M would hold on.
St. Mary’s outshot and outrebounded their opponent, in addition to hitting more 3-pointers. But a pedestrian 16-for-30 showing at the foul stripe and 21 turnovers helped undo their otherwise stellar showing.
“I was pleased with how hard our girls played,” coach Jason Martens said. “That was the biggest thing. They came out and worked hard and competed. We didn’t knock down free throws and we turned the ball a little bit, but the girls played hard. I’m happy with that.”