After having their 45-game home winning streak snapped some 36 hours earlier, the No. 18-ranked Louisiana College Lady Wildcats found themselves with some more adversity midway through the first half of their Senior Day matchup with the University of Texas-Tyler Saturday afternoon at H. O. West Field House.
LC's leading scorer and senior leader, Natoshsa Gottlieb, picked up her second personal foul with 13:49 left in the half and the Lady Cats scuffling a bit as they trailed 10-9. This time, however, Gottlieb's teammates picked up the slack and seemed to regain the confidence that had allowed them to clinch the American Southwest Conference's East Division several games ago.
Keyed by sophomore guard Neka Jones' four three-point baskets the rest of the half, the Lady Wildcats outscored the Lady Patriots 32-16 the rest of the half on their way to an 84-66 victory and redemption from Thursday's 64-60 overtime loss to ETBU.
"We just played harder," said sophomore forward Kaci Willis who chipped in 11 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. "Just because Natosha was out of the game, we knew we had to play better and make up for that. I tried to step up as a player and get things going and be the kind of leader she is because she's a great leader."
Gottlieb, who along with fellow-senior Shaina Howard and early-graduating sophomore Mallory Horn, was playing her final home game wound up playing just 14 minutes, but still finished with nine points and four rebounds.
"I told the referees, this is her senior year, this is her final home game, and she's not getting to play in it," said LC head coach Jason Tinsley. "I thought both of her fouls in the first half were touch fouls. But, she's had a great career, and this one game certainly doesn't define her.
"Tosha's not only been one of the best players to ever play here, she's been one of the best to ever play in the ASC and is one of the best players in the nation in Division III."
Helping Jones and Willis pick up the slack for their foul-laden teammate, Howard chipped in eight points along with eight assists and two steals. Sophomore center Danisha Allison also had 12 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore forward Skylar Chenevert finished with nine points and four rebounds.
More importantly, the Wildcats, now 21-3 overall, 16-2 in the ASC, bounced back in the statistical categories they struggled in the previous game. LC shot 46-percent from the field, 32-for-70 and 39-percent from three-point range, 13-for-33. LC out-rebounded Tyler 46-36 and got 39 points from its bench players compared to just 10 for the Lady Patriots.
"I told them the burden was on them," Tinsley said. "We just needed to play better. I wrote some things out on the board before the game – keys to winning. And I bet I listed 20 things off the top of my head that they're going to have to do to get back on track collectively."
"Our effort was a lot better than it has been," Willis said. "Our shots were falling and I think we know that as a team, we have to get back to doing the stuff that Coach has been telling us to do."
"We know we have to play hard," Horn said. "We realized we couldn't lose again. We hate that feeling."
The Lady Wildcats will close their regular season schedule Monday when they travel to Mississippi College. Following that, the Lady Wildcats will play the opening game of the ASC Tournament Friday at noon.