With one starter out indefinitely, Imari Lyons has seen her playing time skyrocket.
On Saturday, she gave a glimpse as to why.
Lyons scored 15 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out five assists as one of three Matadors with a double-double in Arizona Western's 68-55 win over CETYS Universidad in the final game of the 8th Annual Wells Fargo Classic.
The 5-foot-9 sophomore transfer was one of three players for the Matadors (7-2) to play 35 minutes as the team was missing reigning ACCAC Freshman of the Year Lisette Longomo, who is out indefinitely pending an MRI Wednesday.
“We're just trying to stay strong, stay together, wait it out until she gets better,” Lyons said. “With (point guard Jacy Pagala) filling her spot, she's doing pretty good. I think we have a good rotation in, but we're just waiting for her to come back in and pick it up again.”
Lyons hit the bookend jumpers of a 10-0 AWC run in the second half that put the game out of reach, opening a 50-35 lead. CETYS cut the deficit to 52-46 but never got closer.
The Matadors committed 25 turnovers and forced 18 by their opponent from Mexico, but finished with a 51-17 rebounding edge. Samantha Wallace had 19 to go with her 16 points, and Emilie Muanandibu had 10 boards and a game-high 18 points.
The win came after the Matadors opened the tournament with a 50-40 loss to Lake Region State, after which coach Patrick Cunningham said he was displeased with his team's showing.
“We were an improvement over last night, but we're still struggling with some things. We still turned the ball over too much right now. I don't know if we're mentally tired or physically tired. But with Lisette out, we have a very low number of players right now. It may be taking its toll on them.”
Cunningham said he thought Lyons had a good game.
“She's running a ton of minutes. Kids are banged up, so she's doing a lot. We need her out there because she's the spark on our defense.”
AWC led by as much as 10 in the first half, but CETYS had an 11-0 run to take its first lead at 24-23 with 6:18 left. Muanandibu scored on a layup 30 seconds later and AWC never trailed again.
“We needed to work together better, stay together the whole 40 minutes,” Lyons said. “Tonight I think we could have done better, but we're going to have to find the energy coming up. We've got four conference games left (before the winter break) so we have to keep getting better every day.”