There's a new confidence and a higher expectation at Midwestern State.
That was clearly on display in the Mustangs' dominating 81-44 Lone Star Conference opening win over Texas A&M-Commerce here on Wednesday night.
"We know we're good and we expect to win now," senior guard Savannah Carver said. "No one has that intimidated feeling anymore. We want to be the intimidators. We're very confident."
Carver led a pack of four Mustangs in double figures with 15 points, six rebounds and showed her aggression with four steals in just 16 minutes of court time.
Freshman Dianna Jones stepped in for the injured Kirsti Degelia to score 13 points, pull down four rebounds and swipe three steals for the Mustangs.
"This was a good start for conference play," MSU coach Noel Johnson said. "But we have to go into every road game with the mentality that we are 0-0. I'm proud of the way we responded to this trip."
Sophomore forward Skyler Warrick kick-started a 14-0 run with a pair of buckets midway through the first half, keyed by a Carver 3-pointer. The Mustangs extended a 7-6 edge to 21-6 on a Cierra Thompson jumper with 8:51 to play in the first half.
Midwestern closed the half on another 11-2 run to take a commanding 40-16 lead into the half before cruising the rest of the way.
The Mustangs would lead by as many as 38 points in the second half when Jones connected on a trey from the left corner with 2:53, cruising to their third straight win to move to 4-2 on the season.
Warrick (12 points, 6 rebounds) and freshman guard Shatoia Gober (11 points, 5 rebounds) led MSU's bench efforts.
"We are always leery of the road games and worried about how we will respond," Johnson said. "But we have a good mix of upperclassmen with leadership and good young players."
Danielle Dixon had nine points to lead Texas A&M-Commerce which fell to 1-4 on the season and to 0-1 in LSC play.
Midwestern State takes next week off, before returning to action with a pair of road games the following week.
They travel to Angelo State on Monday, December 12 and Incarnate Word on Wednesday the 14th, before returning home Saturday the 17th for their conference home opener against Texas A&M-Kingsville.
Darrick Thomas didn't appear to be having many problems with Texas A&M-Commerce's size Wednesday night in Commerce.
The 6-7 senior from Dallas scored MSU's first seven points of the game on his way to a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds in a 65-53 win over the Lions to open Lone Star Conference play.
"It's been our plan (to go inside) because our posts have been playing so well lately," Thomas said. "This was big for us tonight because we haven't won our first conference game in the last three years. We just want to continue the trend."
The Mustangs, who improved to 6-0 on the season, continue on the road with games at Angelo State a week from Monday and Incarnate Word that Wednesday.
MSU definitely got a boost of confidence from the inside punch of Thomas and fellow senior David Terrell, who flushed down four dunks to finish with a team-high 18 points while pulling down 10 rebounds.
"Darrick was great running the floor and really good defensively," MSU coach Nelson Haggerty said. "He had a great game."
The Mustangs pounded the glass for 12 offensive rebounds in the first half leading to 14 second-chance points which greatly aided a 9-0 run as MSU surged to a 16-6 lead on Terrell's three-point play with 12:24 to go in the first half.
MSU would lead by as many as 12 points in the opening half, but allowed Texas A&M-Commerce to pull within eight points when Brad Hambrick connected on four consecutive free throws resulting when Anthony Harris drew consecutive technical fouls with 18:50.
The Lions would pull within 43-38 on Preston Whitley's jumper with 9:59 to play, but Midwestern put the game put the game away with a 16-2 run punctuated by three Terrell jams and would lead by as many as 61-41 with 5:04 to play.
MSU guard Michael Loyd canned a pair of 3-pointers to finish with 13 points, while JaMichael Rivers added seven more.