ITTA BENA, Miss. – Vernette Skeete can finally breathe a sigh of relief as the first-year head coach earned her first win at the helm of the Texas Southern University women’s basketball team as her Tigers cruised past Mississippi Valley State University 77-61 on Monday evening.
TSU (1-14, 1-3 SWAC) jumped out to a 14-2 lead just 3:45 into the contest and would lead by as many as 17 in the first quarter on two different occasions when Taniya Lawson drained a pair of free throws with 1:58 left in the period to make it 24-7 and with six seconds left in the period when Micah Gray knocked down two free throws of her own to give the Tigers a 28-11 lead.
MVSU (2-13, 0-4 SWAC) has now lost 11 consecutive games in the series against Texas Southern as the Tigers are 19-1 against the Devilettes in the last 20 matchups and haven’t dropped a decision to the opposition since Jan. 23, 2017.
Gray, who is one game removed from setting a school record with 41 points against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, scored 14 of her game-high 24 in the decisive first quarter. Gray eventually added on five rebounds and three steals for a very solid performance on the night. Lawson’s three with 4:14 left before halftime gave TSU 24-point lead, which would be the largest of the half at 42-18.
The Tigers would earn their largest lead of the contest with 3:14 left in the third quarter when Andriana Avent’s fast break layup gave Texas Southern a 62-30 lead. Avent would end up being the Tigers’ second leading scorer with 14 points and help TSU’s non-starters outdo MVSU’s non-starters 20-11.
TSU may have lost the fourth quarter 23-13 to bring the final margin to a 16-point victory at 77-61, but the game was never in doubt after the barrage of points the Tigers put on the scoreboard in the first quarter and forcing the Devilettes into numerous turnovers throughout the first half.
Lawson turned in a fantastic all-around performance narrowly missing out on a double-double as she earned 13 points, hauled in nine rebounds and added an assist and a steal. Jaida Belton made her 10 minutes of playing time effective by adding 10 points and six rebounds.
MVSU’s Zaria Harleaux led all players with a 27-point, 13-rebound double-double performance, but she couldn’t get much help from her teammates as the Devilettes were just 22-for-64 from the field, 3-for-16 from long range and 14-for-21 from the charity stripe.
TSU, on the other hand, was 25-for-59 from the field, 6-for-28 from beyond the arc and 21-for-26 from the charity stripe including 14-for-14 from the starting five.
Tonight was the performance that Skeete and the rest of her coaching staff knew their team could turn in and will look for that same effort the rest of the season as SWAC play heats up.
The Tigers will have a few days of practice to get ready for a key weekend series at home in the H&PE Arena when they welcome in Alcorn State on Saturday, Jan. 14 at 3 p.m. CST and then Jackson State on Monday, Jan. 16 at 5:30 p.m. TSU will look to extend its winning streak to seven in the series against Alcorn State and end a six-game losing streak to Jackson State.