The East Central University women’s basketball team cut a double-digit deficit to No. 17 Southwestern to four but couldn’t complete the comeback in a 90-80 loss to the Lady Bulldogs Thursday night inside the Pioneer Cellular Event Center.

ECU has now dropped four straight games, falling to 4-7 overall and 3-4 in Great American Conference play, while Southwestern improved to 12-1 and 7-0.

The Tigers are back in action at 1 p.m. today, hosting Southern Nazarene University.

Nicole Middleton scored in the paint with 5:39 left in the fourth quarter to give Southwestern an 84-73 lead. The Tigers then started chipping away.

Madison Rehl hit a layup before Lakin Preisner scored five unanswered points for the Tigers. Preisner drilled a 3-pointer and then made two free throws with 1:46 left in the game to trim the SWOSU lead to 84-80.

The Lady Bulldogs scored the final six points of the game, including four free throws in the last 1:03.

SWOSU jumped out to an 18-point lead early in the second quarter when Taylor Hedrick sank a 3-pointer at the 8:35 mark that put the hosts on top 35-17.

The Tigers roared back by hitting five 3-point baskets — two by Kendall Schulte and one apiece from Maci Hanson, Devon Branch and Aaliyah Blakley — during a 17-4 surge. When Branch sank a free throw with 3:45 left in the period, ECU’s deficit had shrunk to 39-34.

ECU’s Madison Nickens drained a triple with 1:32 showing — the visitors made eight total 3-pointers in the second period — to get the Tigers within 45-43.

Southwestern led 51-44 at halftime.

The Tigers shot a blistering 11-of-19 (57.9 percent) from 3-point range in the first half, but the Lady Bulldogs countered with a strong 9-of-16 (56.3 percent) showing.

The third quarter was a stalemate, with both teams scoring 23 points in the frame which gave SWOSU a seven-point lead at 74-67 heading into the fourth and final quarter.

The Tigers were paced by Preisner, who tallied 20 points, six rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Branch added 18 points, four boards, an assist and a block.

Rehl and Schulte both score 11 points off the pine for ECU.

The Lady Bulldogs got 71 of their 90 points from their starters.

Taylor Hedrick, ended with a career-high 20 points while Hailey Tucker also chipped in 20 points with a season-high 14 rebounds. Bethany Franks added nine points and a whopping 17 rebounds for SWOSU and helped the hosts win the battle of the boards 53-37.

Southwestern also sank 20-of-27 free throws in the game compared to 9-of-13 showing for the Tigers.

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Jeff Cali has been covering sports in the Ada area since the mid-90s. He graduated from Byng High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from East Central University.