ET Basketball: LeTourneau YellowJackets sting UT Dallas
Jan. 13, 2018 at 9:22 p.m.
LeTourneau stood at midcourt prior to a big game against UT Dallas and listened, the American Southwest East Division Champion banner just above them, as the new setup at Solheim Arena was dedicated.
The YellowJackets then took the court and defended the new-look arena.
Behind a career night from sophomore Nate West, LeTourneau thwarted a UT Dallas comeback attempt and continued to widen the gap to grab an 80-63 win over the Comets in ASC action.
With the win, LeTourneau moves to 12-2 on the season and 6-1 in league play, alone atop East Division standings. UT Dallas, which entered with the same 5-1 league record, falls to 9-5 on the season and 5-2 in conference action.
"We got exactly what we expected, a tough ball game played by both teams," LeTourneau head coach Dan Miller said. "We made a few more plays than they did to pull ahead but UT Dallas is a very disciplined team and we knew it would take everything we had.
"You have to win different ways in basketball and this wasn't a typical game for us with a large credit to their defense. It was good to see us win a grind-it-out, tough game."
Prior to the game, LeTourneau president Dr. Dale Lunsford dedicated brand-new bleachers that now highlight Solheim Arena.
"It's good to see these blue seats in here now, which are much more comfortable," Lunsford said, drawing an 'amen' from the crowd. "These are dedicated to the success of the student-athletes and the students of LeTourneau."
In the nightcap of Saturday's double-header, West was a constant throughout the evening, finishing with a career-best 28 points to go with seven rebounds and three assists. Eighteen of the sophomore's night came from downtown, more often than note with a Comet defender in his face.
"We ask Nate to do a lot of things and play a lot of minutes for our team because he earns them," Miller said. "I was really proud of him for setting the tone early when our team was struggling scorings. He was our early scorer and kept us going.
"Once everyone else got caught up, he was finding guys. It may not of shown up as an assist but he got the ball moving when he needed to and made plays when he needed to."
Junior Caleb Loggins was just as steady, finishing with a 12-point, 15-rebound double-double to go with three steals. Freshman Justin Moore chipped in 14 points and four assists for the YellowJackets, who shot 33 percent in the first half before upping that mark to 54 percent in the second half.
After four ties and two lead changes early, LeTourneau constructed a 16-3 run inside the final 10 minutes of the first half for a then-high 13-point lead, 32-19.
Seth Mattson hit one of his two threes on the night in the run, which was bookended by a nifty jumper from West, followed by a fall-down three.
LeTourneau led 38-26 at halftime.
UT Dallas, led by three scorers in double digits paced by a 17-point night from Dimitrius Underwood, opened the second half on a 14-3 run, bolstered by two YellowJacket turnovers and four empty possessions from the home team. LeTourneau called a timeout clinging to a one-point lead, 41-40, with 15:05 left.
"The message that UT Dallas, twice, has come from back from double digits to come back and win games," Miller said. "We knew they were going to come out of the locker room with some fire.
"We played a little complacent, which is uncharacteristic, for the first few minutes. We had to set it back, get our focus and, once we did that, we were fine."
West stopped the run with another falling-down three and Moore followed with a nice move in the paint as LeTourneau came out of the break on a 7-0 run to preserve and keep the lead the rest of the way.
LeTourneau is back home Monday and welcomes East Texas Baptist University, who enters coming off a loss to UT Dallas, 96-79. The Tigers enter at 5-2 in ASC action.
"Every game is going to be a tough game," Miller said. "We have the bulls eye on our back from last year and we're excited to have to do that.
"ETBU is playing good right now and coming in off a loss so we know that they're going to be hungry.
"We're really thankful to Dr. Lunsford and to everyone who contributed to help us get the stands. They look great, it was a great atmosphere and there will be many more to come."
LeTourneau went blow for blow throughout the first half, enduring a 12-0 run in the process, against a red-hot UT Dallas squad.
The Comets, then, in the third quarter took off.
Two players recorded 20-plus nights for UT Dallas, who ran its win streak to seven games with a 63-42 win over the YellowJackets in ASC East Division action to open Saturday's action.
The Comets move to 12-2 on the season and 6-1 in conference play. LeTourneau now sits at 3-11 overall and 0-7 in ASC play.
Behind 10 first-half points from Ashley Reed, LeTourneau came out strong, matching UT Dallas step for step with six first-quarter lead changes.
After leading 18-15 after the first frame, Jaila Leaven drained a three off an assist from Reed to open the second quarter, giving LeTourneau its largest lead of the night, 21-15.
From there, UT Dallas, taking advantage of LeTourneau turnovers and strong play on the boards, particularly, the offensive side, roared back on a 12-0 run.
Keauna Whitfield connected on a putback off her own shot and Reed had her second three of the night to give UT Dallas a one-point lead, 28-27, at halftime.
After the break, LeTourneau opened cold, missing its first four shots while the Comets blasted off from deep, with three-straight threes to open the frame.
Reed finished with a team-high 14 points for LeTourneau and Jaila Leaven added 11.
Whitfield, a freshman, was a bright spot, finishing with a 13-point, 15-rebound double-double for the 'Jackets, whose roster features two seniors under first-year head coach Cassi Rozanski.
Victoria Pena and Kelley Skinner combined for 43 points to lead the Comets, who outscored LeTourneau, 26-8, in the third quarter.
LeTourneau next hosts ETBU on Monday.