ABILENE, Texas – It was a tale of two halves for the McMurry University women’s basketball team, as it suffered a 59-58 Heartland Conference loss to the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith at Kimbrell Arena. The setback dropped the War Hawks to 1-5 overall and 1-1 in the Heartland Conference, while the Lions improved to 1-5 and are also 1-1 in league play.
McM got out to a fast start and looked like it was going to cruise, rolling to a 17-point lead with 7:03 left to play in the first half, after a lay-up by Keshia Collins made it 28-11. That elicited a timeout from UAFS head coach Louis Whorton in an effort to restore order.
The ploy worked, as the Lions began to whittle away at the McMurry cushion. UAFS outscored McM 19-6 the rest of the way until intermission, making the score 34-30 in favor of the War Hawks at the half.
After putting in 14 field goals made in the first half, McMurry would muster just seven field goals made in the second period. McM managed to keep the Lions at bay until the 14:39 mark of the second half, for the first of three ties and four lead changes over the next four minutes.
The Lions took the lead for good with 9:58 remaining, 45-43, and upped it to a five-point margin with 2:56 left on the game clock (53-48). But McMurry made one last stab at UAFS.
A steal and layup by Collins with 2:18 left in the second cut it to 53-50. That was followed by a pair of free throws by sophomore Sierra Maykus a minute later, drawing the War Hawks to within one, 53-52.
Maykus – who tallied a career-high 17 points in the game – would score McMurry’s final eight points of the contest as she matched each Lions’ bucket to keep her team within a single point. But the War Hawks simply ran out of possessions, 59-58.
Maykus was 5-of-10 from the field and 3-of-8 from beyond the arc. She also hit all four of her free throw attempts.
Collins narrowly missed a double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds. She also had two steals.
Senior Tory Salazar’s 10 points rounded out the double-figure scoring for McMurry. Salazar hit 4-of-9 from the floor, while also snaring four rebounds, passing off two assists and making three steals.
McMurry out-dueled UAFS’ taller roster underneath, holding a 22-16 advantage for points in the paint. But the Lions converted McM’s 23 turnovers into 24 points. Additionally, Fort Smith was a sterling 22-of-23 from the free throw line, compared to the War Hawks’ 10-of-13 effort.
UAFS guard Candace Followwell led her team with 15 points, buoyed by a 9-for-9 day at the charity stripe.
McMurry will return to action on Tuesday, hosting Midwestern State University in a non-conference meeting. Tip-off is slated for 5:30 p.m.