Collins, Nunez big for ASU

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 30, 2006

LORMAN &8212; Sure, the win was enjoyable. But it didn&8217;t last long for the Alcorn Lady Braves, who knew once the novelty wore off Thursday&8217;s 69-43 win over Texas Southern what their objective was.

Take this game, keep the momentum going, finish the season strong Saturday and enter the SWAC tournament on a roll.

Consistency hasn&8217;t been a theme of this season, but it&8217;s never too late to start.

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&8220;We have to stay focused and play every game like it&8217;s our last game to keep this streak,&8221; said point guard Tanika Nunez, who had her best game scoring with 17 points since putting up 20 four games into the season. &8220;I&8217;m back, and I&8217;m trying to get ready for the tournament. The conference is all even. We&8217;ve got Prairie View coming in Saturday, and they&8217;re fighting for that final spot.&8221;

The win eclipsed the Lady Braves&8217; 64-45 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff as their most lopsided win of the season, and the 43 points allowed was a season low as well. And standout post Rasaan Powell spent a good portion of the second half in foul trouble.

But Nunez, Shawntawnee Collins and Latoya Wily stepped up so big &8212; Collins was one rebound away from both netting double-doubles &8212; that Powell&8217;s total of six points was a little easier to swallow.

Collins&8217; 19 points was a season high.

&8220;I was just glad to see them play well,&8221; Alcorn head coach Shirley Walker said. &8220;We&8217;re up and down, and I hope we can stay on this winning note. They played well. Shawntawnee Collins &8212; I don&8217;t know the last two games she&8217;s been on. I hope she can continue to play well for us.

&8220;But I think about it, and let&8217;s just try to get a good seed and look at the results from the other games. All we want to do is move up.&8221;

Collins and Wily combined for 19 points and 22 rebounds, and Powell still grabbed 15 boards as the Lady Braves (8-9, 10-15) dominated the glass, 55-30. The inside presence was too much for Texas Southern (3-14, 5-21), who had to resort to shooting 3-pointers in the final 10 minutes of the game against Alcorn&8217;s 3-2 zone defense.

The Lady Tigers got very few high-percentage shots and even fewer second-chance shots.

&8220;Although Powell didn&8217;t play very well, they have the best inside game in the conference,&8221; Texas Southern head coach Claude Cummings said. &8220;She&8217;s got my vote for MVP. Throughout the majority of the season, she&8217;s the most dominant player. (Collins) played extremely well. They stayed on the glass and played well after Powell got in foul trouble. If they play like that throughout the tournament, they&8217;ve got a chance to win.&8221;

The inside advantage became more evident as the game wore on, particularly at the start of the second half. Powell sat most of that stretch, and Alcorn answered Monica Okolo&8217;s 3-pointer to start the half with a 19-5 run to break it open.

Natasha Dennis got a steal, had a layup roll off the rim but put it back in for a bucket to finish the run and give Alcorn a 54-28 lead.

&8220;When your leading scorer is out, somebody has to step up,&8221; said Collins, a Texas Southern transfer. &8220;It&8217;s been like that all season. I just try to go in there and play my hardest every game. Everybody crashed the boards this game. We had a team effort on rebounding.&8221;

Collins hit a jumper after Okolo answered the run for TSU, and Wily followed suit with a jumper of her own at the 7:18 mark for a 58-30 lead, Alcorn&8217;s biggest lead of the game. Powell had only two points in the second half &8212; she played only eight minutes after the break &8212; before being whistled for her fifth foul with one second left in the game.

Nunez sparked the Lady Braves midway through the first half with defense and buckets as they broke away from a 12-12 tie to a 32-17 lead. Nunez had three assists and two buckets as Alcorn broke away on a 15-3 run, including a field goal at the 8:01 mark for a 27-15 lead.

The Lady Braves went cold after taking the 15-point lead and Powell went to the bench with her second foul. They went scoreless for more than five minutes until Nunez hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 42 seconds left for a 35-20 lead at the break.

The game was emotional for Wily, who had a surprise visit from her family from Hawaii before the game. It was the same for Collins, who left TSU after one year and found her way to Alcorn.

And Collins could care less about her totals.

&8220;I&8217;m not a stat person &8212; I just play,&8221; she admitted. &8220;It was a little motivation. I had to show them what they were missing.&8221;