With both teams off to a 1-1 start in conference play on the road, the LeTourneau YellowJackets returned to the home court Thursday as the heart of American Southwest Conference action begins.
Home sweet home worked out well for both.
In Thursday’s opener, the YellowJacket women completed a fourth-quarter comeback to grab a 71-58 win over Ozarks to move to 2-1 in ASC action.
Following that up was the YellowJacket men, who led for just over 36 minutes in an 86-69 win over Ozarks for the ninth win overall of the season, following an overtime win over Hardin-Simmons this past weekend.
“They didn’t quit,” YellowJacket women’s head coach Cassi Rozanski said. “We were a little off tonight but they kept playing. We had a good first quarter, a terrible second quarter, an okay third quarter and then turned it on.
“We’re happy to be home. We were counting down the days to get here and it’s a big stretch early on for us.”
Both squads are back at Solheim Arena on Saturday, squaring off with UT Dallas in doubleheader action with the women tipping off a at 1 p.m. Both UT Dallas teams entered Thursday atop the ASC East Division standings but were both knocked off by ETBU on Thursday.
WEST TAKES OVER LATE
While it was a near wire-to-wire win for the YellowJackets, Ozarks used a few runs — one in the first half and another inside the final seven minutes — in a comeback attempt.
LeTourneau senior Nate West wasn’t having it.
Trailing 58-44, the largest deficit of the night outside of the final, Ozarks used a 14-4 run to pull with four points, 62-58, before West took over.
After draining two early threes, West connected on his third after a drought from deep and followed with another to spark an 11-2 run from there to put the YellowJackets (9-3, 2-1) ahead — comfortably this time — for good.
West had a big offensive rebound, fed it out and then was fouled on a 3-point shot and connected on all three free throws. He had a steal, a coast-to-coast bucket off a defensive board and added his fifth 3-pointer for good measure.
The lone senior on the roster, West finished with a 28-point, 14-rebound double-double for the YellowJackets and added five assists and four steals.
John Argue followed in double figures with 13 and Kyle Matthews added 10 for LETU, who shot 44.6 percent overall on 100 total shots and went 17-of-20 from free-throw range.
LeTourneau showed its depth throughout with eight player with minutes in double digits and 27 points off the bench, led by eight points from Justin Moore and Warren Richardson. Moore tacked on five rebounds and four assists.
West had 12 points and seven rebounds at halftime with Argue and Matthews following with seven as LeTourneau led, 40-31.
Jacobe Davis led Ozarks (5-8, 1-3) with 20 points.
MIKULSKI LEADS LETU
Overall, the YellowJacket women led by a mere 14 seconds on the books.
But that margin came when it counted: at the end.
Sophomore guard Micayla Mikulski led the comeback charge for LeTourneau, finishing with a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double, including a 9-of-9 mark at the free throw line and three steals.
“Micayla, she was 1-for-7 shooting in the first half but didn’t get down,” Rozanski said. “She found a way to make things happen defensively and that allowed her to get to the basket and shoot some free throws.
“It was a team effort for sure but she played a huge part in getting it going like we know we can.”
LeTourneau started strong, building an 18-11 lead after the first quarter. Ozarks slowly chipped into the lead in the second and took over with 2:23 left for a four-point lead at halftime, 34-30.
The YellowJackets tied things up at 37-all on a driving bucket from Vanessa Cruz with 5:46 left in the third but Ozarks, who shot 41 percent overall to 29 percent for the YellowJackets, wouldn’t surrender the lead.
That came with 6:32 left as Mikulski sparked a personal 7-0 run with an and-one play off an assist and steal from Scruffy Hopkins.
A three from Keauna Whitfield put LeTourneau up by nine before Cruz added a highlight-reel basket in the paint and followed with two from the line to lock up the comeback win.
Cruz finished with 14 points and five assists, followed by 13 points from Whitfield and a nine-point, 10-rebound effort from Flora Akingbade. Hopkins and Mikulski had three steals each for LeTourneau, who cashed in 19 points off turnovers from the Ozarks.
LeTourneau used 22 offensive rebounds, including six from Akingbade, for 25 second-change points.