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Matador Women trounce Rams in season-opener
If the Arizona Western women's basketball team went through an early scoring drought, then Anoka-Ramsey went through a full-fledged famine.
The Rams went 10 minutes and 52 seconds without a point Thursday in the Matadors' season-opening 59-31 win at The House in the ‘12 Desert Classic.
The Matadors (ranked 12th in NJCAA Division I) scored 21 straight during the stretch, which came on the heels of a cold start. They trailed 10-4 after turnovers on three straight possessions led to eight points for the Rams (second in Division III).
“At halftime coach came in and said to get your stuff together or we're going to end up losing to this team,” said point guard Nikki Villescaz, who had nine points, five rebounds and five assists in her first game with AWC after transferring from South Mountain. “He said to slow it down and relax because the mistakes come when you rush. Just slow down and focus on the defense.”
The Matadors got the message well before halftime, closing the first half on a 17-0 run, part of a larger 21-0 run between Ram field goals.
“We're just a little more athletic than they were, and so it helps us defensively,” AWC coach Patrick Cunningham said. “It covered a lot of offensive deficiencies at this point. But it's the first game, the kids are excited, it's a new group, so these are things we expect. The defense did a good job of covering up those things we need to work on.”
The Matadors had a definite size advantage, with five players at least 6 feet tall on the roster, and just one Ram at 6-0. That led to the Matadors' 44-14 rebound edge. Samantha Wallace almost outrebounded Anoka-Ramsey by herself, grabbing 12 to lead the Matadors.
The Matadors committed 23 turnovers compared to 18 for the Rams, but actually had a 13-8 edge in steals. Villescaz, who had three AWC steals, said the team's press was very effective during Anoka-Ramsey's dry spell.
“Ball pressure, ball pressure, ball pressure — make it tough for them,” Villescaz said. “They were pressuring us, and we were so nervous, and when you're nervous and get rattled that's when things happen. Just get up in there, pressure them, and they started acting how we were acting.”
The size advantage worked for the Matadors, with two of their three leading scorers standing at more than 6 feet tall. Imari Lyons (5-9) scored 10, as did 6-4 Emilie Muanandibu. Lisette Longomo (6-0) scored 15 to lead all scorers.
“The first half was kind of rough, but once we settled down, started moving the ball and working with our bigs more — because we have a big advantage down there over other teams, 6-4, 6-3 that's pretty big — so once we started feeding it inside, and made it, it made the jump shots a little easier,” Villescaz said. “First games are kind of nervous, but second half was much, much better.”
Cunningham said he was pleased on the whole with his team's season-opening performance.
“If we understand that that's our ticket, we got to be long and athletic and work at it, that gives us a chance to cover up some things,” Cunningham said. “Tonight I was happy with how we started things. It's just a process of ongoing improvement.