Emporia State survives onslaught of Tarleton State

Rob Burkett

In every campaign there are battles won and lost. For Emporia State University tonight would be characterized with a win, but just barely.

Coming in to the contest, ESU was still licking its wounds from a MIAA conference tournament finals loss to Washburn. Tarleton State University wouldn’t let those wounds heal however as they attempted to claw and scratch their way through the Lady Hornets.

With two lead changes and a tie in the first five minutes of the game, both teams knew it was going to be a battle of wills.

“Their defense was really tough,” said Emporia State Head Coach Jory Collins. “We struggled against them all night. Shooting 29-for-33 from the free throw line was probably the difference in this game.”

The whistle would indeed tell the tale of the game. As the contest continued to wear on in the first half, physical play continued in the post. Emporia State forward Merissa Quick and guard Jocelyn Cummings both drew early fouls sending them to the bench for long stretches of the first half. With Quick’s size negated inside, TSU attempted to take advantage, going inside to forward Shanae Lowrance who finished the game with eight points.

The sting of the Lady Hornet defense however was tough to overcome and the Texanns spent most of the first half trailing, looking up at ESU at the break, 33-28.

In the second half TSU turned up the defensive intensity, going full court pressure for extended periods of time and slipping into the passing lanes to take possessions away from ESU. Forcing 12 turnovers in the second half, TSU managed to hang on and close the distance. With 9:31 left to go in the game, the Texanns who trailed by as much as nine, managed to tie the game at 44 a piece. ESU responded with a 13-4 run to open up a lead that was never overcome, dropping the game 64-56.

Afterwards, Tarleton State Head Coach Ronnie Hearne sounded off on what he felt was the difference in the game.

“You know I played this game in college,” said Hearne. “It used to be about playing and not about who could knock each other over the most without getting called for a foul. We’re a good team and this is probably the best team I’ve coached but we came up short tonight.”

Moving forward Emporia State turns its attention to a familiar foe in regional host Washburn. Saturday’s matchup will be the fourth time this season the two teams have met with ESU having come up short in each of those contests. The closest of the losses to Washburn coming on their home floor on a last second shot by MIAA player of the year senior guard Ebonie Williams to cement a 53-52 win. ESU however relishes the thought of getting their “Turnpike Tussle” opponent one more time.

“We don’t want to lose to them four times,” said Emporia State forward Kelsey Balcom. “We owe them one.”

Collins however looked at the matchup against top seeded Washburn with a wary eye.

“Obviously Washburn’s a great basketball team,” said Collins. “They got us three times this year…we’re excited to play them again. I think this is who we wanted if we were able to get out of the first round. It’ll be a war like always.”

Tipoff in the fourth installment of the 2012 “Turnpike Tussle” is set for 5 p.m. Saturday at Lee Arena.