Matadors avoid upset against Glendale
Matador head coach Patrick Cunningham scribbled violently with his red magic marker on the hardwood floor, illustrating exactly what he wanted his team to do with 4:53 left on the clock and his team up by 7 against the struggling 1-8 Glendale Gauchos.
But it turned out no magic marker strategy could help the Matadors hold on in regulation as the Gauchos tied the game 63-63 on a free throw with three seconds left to send it into overtime, where the Matadors would eventually stave them off to win 72-65.
“Last year we played (Glendale) right off the bat,” Cunningham said. “For some reason, they play us very, very well the first time we play them. Our guys need to toughen up. We're soft against teams that aren't quite as talented as us.”
The Matadors built a 16-6 lead in the first few minutes of the game, but the game was quickly tied after an 11-2 run by Glendale. Whenever AWC seemed to have a little momentum, the Gauchos found their own.
“We had foul trouble, our lineups are messed up and we're very, very shorthanded right now,” Cunningham said. “Glendale did a really good job of getting us out of sync. They play a 2-3 zone, it's hard to defeat, you have to have some patience and you have to have trust in each other. We got into some wacky lineups so we were very, very out of character tonight, on both ends of the ball.”
Imari Lyons and Emilie Muanandibu both fouled out in the second half, leaving the Matadors without two of their offensive leaders. Despite fouling out, Lyons had 17 points on the night.
AWC came out in the second half playing much more consistently on offense, but so did Glendale.
The Gauchos pulled within three points with less than a minute left in the contest. After a Glendale breakaway lay-in, the Gauchos fouled immediately. The Matadors sent Nikki Villescaz to the line, who missed her free throw. AWC recovered the rebound, which was then stolen by Gaucho point guard Jazmin Mays who in the scramble was inadvertently fouled, sending her to the line with three seconds left on the clock.
After missing the first attempt, Mays sunk the second foul shot, sending the game into overtime.
“We're soft right now,” Cunningham said. “We don't want to go out there and continue to play hard. They played hard, they rebounded and got some easy baskets. We relaxed once we got up by a little bit. We need to mature as a team and we just haven't quite got there.”
The officials couldn't seem to please either team Wednesday night, and most of the second half was spent at the foul line. There was 32 total free throw attempts for both teams in the second half and 12 in overtime. The Matadors were 60 percent from the line.
“That's just the way it goes,” Cunningham said. “There's nothing you can do about it so you just have to respond to it. It was basically a free-throw contest most of the second half. We thought we were going to lose it, but we ended up winning the free-throw contest.”
Next up, the Matadors will face Eastern Arizona at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.