Thomas University made just one shot from the floor in the first 11 minutes, 31 seconds of the second half.
While the TU women’s basketball team rebounded from that drought to force overtime against visiting St. Thomas, the Night Hawks couldn’t completely recover as they fell 71-65 for their first loss in The Sun Conference.
“It wasn’t really anything they did so much as things we didn’t do,” TU coach Coretta Brown said. “We weren’t doing the little things like boxing out and getting rebounds, like making layups and making free throws.
“That was the difference in the game.”
The Night Hawks, who led the majority of the first half, never had a lead in the second 20 minutes as the Bobcats went up 38-26 on a Jessika Montalvo bucket with 18:54 left in the game. And with the Night Hawks (6-8, 2-1) struggling to find the basket, St. Thomas (5-8, 2-0) built a 47-39 lead after Meghan Gavin hit a 3-pointer at the 9:26 mark.
However, Shaunice Bennett then broke the dry spell and the Night Hawks poured in seven points in little more than a minute to claw within 47-46. While TU never was able to pull ahead, it stayed in striking distance and then Angel Roberts hit a jumper at the minute mark to pull the Night Hawks within two and followed with a pair of free throws with 45 seconds left to tie it.
The Bobcats then missed two chances to win it before the extra period. In that extra five minutes, TU grabbed the lead four times, first on a Taylor Britt basket 27 seconds into OT, and lastly on a Joi Wright 3-pointer to make it 63-61 midway through. St. Thomas, though, scored the next six points to regain the lead for good.
Britt, the conference’s top scorer at 18.15 points per game, led TU with 18 points — 14 coming in the first half — and 11 rebounds. Wright added 14 and Jessica Anderson finished with 11. St. Thomas was paced by Antishia Wright’s 20 and 10 and Montalvo’s 16.
“There were good signs here and there, but I’m just trying to get it through my kids’ heads that it’s a 40-minute game,” Brown said. “We can’t decide to play one minute and then fold the rest of the night.
“We just have to get better.”
St. Thomas 77
Thomas men 65
Midway through the first half, the Night Hawks (8-5, 1-2) led 25-17 on a Justyn Watkins basket to cap a 10-0 streak.
The Bobcats (10-3, 3-0) responded with a 35-12 run to close out the first half and they never were seriously threatened again.
“It was a tale of two halves there really,” TU coach Stephen Cox said. “We’re a defensive unit, or we at least try to be. Our goal is to allow 30-33 points a half, and there they have 52 at halftime.
“The second half we give up only 25 and we had much better execution.”
St. Thomas took the lead for good when Demonte’ Simpson, a 6-foot-10, 275-pound behemoth, hit a 3-pointer at the top of the key with eight minutes left in the opening half. The Bobcats stretched the advantage to to the 52-37 halftime advantage as Kevin Hincapie and Floyd Battle scored off steals in the final 14 seconds of the period.
“I thought our effort was good the first half, we just didn’t execute,” Cox added. “Give St. Thomas credit, they hit some shots. But then again, we also had 30 turnovers and that’s not characteristic of who we are.”
St. Thomas kept building in the second half as it pushed the lead to 61-42 on a pair of Chuckie Becton free throws less than four minutes into the half. But TU didn’t go easily.
The Night Hawks cut that advantage to 64-54 with 8:17 left after Keldrick Davis hit a free throw to end an 8-0 run that included a Adonai Rogers dunk. TU, though, was unable to ever get the deficit back into single digits.
Watkins led TU with 20 points, while Thomasville product Trey Gosier added nine. Battle led four Bobcats in double figures with 19 as Simpson added 15, Hincapie finished with 13 and Lorel Beckford had 10.