With four players scoring in double figures, the Northeastern A&M Lady Norse cruised to an 85-73 victory Monday night over Eastern State College in the NEO Fieldhouse.
While reeling off their sixth straight win, coach Jim Rowland's Lady Norse are 11-6 on the season and 5-2 in the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference. Coach Andy Mace's Lady Mountaineers slip to 6-9 on the season and 1-6 in the conference.
Starting a two-game road trip, the Lady Norse square off against conference foe Western State College on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Altus.
"Our defensive intensity continues to come out in the first half," Rowland said. "It did last week against Murray and I tried to stress to our girls at halftime that they had to maintain our defense or Eastern would come back.
"Sure enough, in the first 15 minutes of the second half they cut a 22-point halftime lead (48-26) in half (70-59) and were still making a move," Rowland said. "We can't continue to allow teams to get comfortable with their offense because it's going to jump up and bite us against good teams like Connors and Northern-Enid."
Sophomore center Jelena Cerina scored seven straight points, along with 3-point field goals by Ashton Pittman and Brittany Woodard and a traditional field goal and free throw by Shea Bowden and a layup by Ciera Mathews, to create an 18-4 cushion for the Lady Norse in the first eight minutes of the opening half.
Four straight points by Andrea Marinho and layups by Roni Jefferson and Ashley McKeel increased NEO's lead to 26-5 at the 8:58 juncture of the first half.
Pounding the ball inside, Cerina scored six points and Mathews added a field goal as the Lady Norse pulled away to a 34-13 margin with 4:49 until halftime.
Scoring 14 of her game-high 24 points in the first half, Cerina led the Lady Norse to a 48-26 advantage at intermission.
"I don't want to take anything away from Eastern because they played to our weaknesses," Rowland said. "Our matchups in the second half hurt us a little bit because of their size."
Trailing 56-36 in the first four minutes of the second half, the Lady Mountaineers went on a 16-9 run over a seven-minute period to whittle the deficit to a 65-52 score. Five points each by Ronita Coleman, Tarra Kania and Shantoya Fisher and a free throw by Courtney Clayborn fueled the Eastern rally.
"Defense is 90 percent effort and 10 percent positioning," Rowland said. "And I have to question just how much effort we're willing to put into it."
Five straight points by Williams and three by Fisher allowed the Lady Mountaineers to trail 70-59 with 6:39 showing on the clock.
Pittman and Bowden combined for consecutive 3-point field goals and Woodard added two free throws as NEO led 78-68 with four minutes left in the game.
Consecutive layups by Woodard and two free throws by Brianna Manuatu, along with one by Pittman, closed out NEO's scoring down the stretch.
Cerina led the Lady Norse with 24 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. Pittman contributed 16, Woodard has 14 and Bowden finished with 12 points.
Coleman paced the Lady Mountaineers with 19 points along with Williams 16, Fisher 12 and Rocio Medrano 10.