West Texas A&M is hoping to close out 2017 on a high-note with the final nonconference game on the schedule, hosting the University of the Southwest at 5:30 p.m. at First United Bank Center.
The No. 2-ranked Lady Buffs have been on a season long roll with an 11-0 start to the year and a 4-0 start to Lone Star Conference play.
Before the Christmas break, WT stayed hot coming away with back-to-back wins at the Vikings Holiday Hoops Classic in Belingham, Wash. WT handled Simon Fraser 78-59, followed by an impressive win against host school Western Washington, 78-62.
Solid play on both ends of the floor has been the glue that’s helped gel a host of new players for third-year coach Kristen Mattio.
Her Lady Buffs rank fourth in all of Division II, holding teams to 51.4 points a game while also ranking fourth in field goal percentage at 50.3 percent. WT is eighth nationally, holding teams to 33.3 shooting from the field.
“This is our final nonconference game of the season,” Mattio said. “It is important that we continue to take steps forward as a team. We have had a solid nonconference stretch that has greatly prepared us. With no classes right now, there is nothing more important than making sure we remain focused on the next practice in front of us and the next game.”
With a grueling conference schedule looming that sees Midwestern State and Cameron visit Canyon on Jan. 4 and the 6th, Mattio’s concern is not to overlook a struggling Mustangs team that is 1-10 on the year.
USW has a solid player in junior Aaliyah Wheatfall, who scores 12.1 points a game.
“I feel we used the break to mentally and physically recover,” Mattio said. “We will use this final game to get our legs back underneath us which will help propel us into the final segment of conference play. A championship mindset will be key in our practices the next few days as as will a good performance against the University of the Southwest. We are very excited for the second half of our season to get started.”
Lady Buff stuff: Sophomore Lexy Hightower is off to a sizzling start for the Lady Buffs. At the Vikings Holiday Hoops Classic, the Amarillo High graduate averaged 21 points a game, shooting 66.7 (10-of-15) from 3-point range. That effort earned Hightower tournament MVP honors and LSC Offensive Player of the Week.
Hightower leads WT at 13.9 ppg this year.
Junior post player Tiana Parker enjoyed being back in her home state of Washington. Parker, a Division I transfer from Tennessee State, played her two best games at the Vikings Holiday Hoops Classic, averaging 12.1 ppg with 6.1 rebounds a game in the two wins.
Tonight’s probable starters
West Texas A&M Lady Buffs
Overall Record: 11-0
Head coach: Kristen Mattio (3rd Year)
Tiana Parker P.;6-5;Jr.;5.3;7.2
The game: University of the Southwest Mustangs (1-10) at No. 2 West Texas A&M Lady Buffs (11-0), 5:30 p.m. tonight, in a nonconference game at the First United Bank Center.
Noteworthy: The No. 2-ranked Lady Buffs hope to close out the 2017 portion of the schedule unbeaten.