No. 10 Texans Fall to Mustangs in a Thiller
By Travis M. Smith
STEPHENVILLE – After starting the season with 12 straight wins, Tarleton State has dropped 2 of its last three Lone Star Conference tilts. The (13-2, 1-2) Texans fell to the Mustangs of (15-3, 4-0) Midwestern State in a thriller, 78-76.
The Texans had eight different players contribute, paced by Mo Lee’s 15. Michael Hardge and TaShawn Mabry both had 14, and Michael Hamilton put in 11 of his own.
Tarleton came out of the locker room for the second half searching for answers on offense. It wasn’t until Mabry stole an inbound, followed by him finding the bottom of the net from beyond the arch that they Texans began to show some life. The triple pulled the Texans back to within 2 with just under 4 minutes to play.
Hamilton electrified the sell-out crowd at Wisdom Gym for the second consecutive game with a steal and a power jam over an MSU defender. The Texans comeback ran out of time when Lee’s full court heave came up empty.
Tarleton State will look to bounce back on Saturday when they travel to Lawton, OK to take on the (9-5, 1-1) Cameron Aggies. The game is set for a 4 p.m. tip in Aggie Gym.
Davene Carter won the tip and Hardge hit his first attempt from beyond the arch for a quick 3-0 lead. Mabry followed by hitting a jumper and Hardge made his first two free throw attempts of the game. The Texans had a 7-0 lead with just over 2 minutes off the clock.
Both teams cooled after a hot start on offense, with each only managing a basket a piece on 5 trips. Midwestern pieced together a 6-0 run during the opening half and took their first lead with 11:49 to play. The Mustangs led the Texans 18-17, with Thad Rideau scoring 11 of the 18 points.
Both offensives began to find to their rhythm midway through the half. Midwestern made 4 straight baskets, and Tarleton 5 of 7, but it was the fifth basket that brought the capacity crowd to its feet. The Texans continue to play above the rim, and Hardge fed EJ Reed a textbook alley-oop pass to give the Texans a 26-23 lead with 9:06 in the half.
Lee stole an errant Mustang pass and found Carter in the lane for an easy two points. Mabry hit both of his free throws on the Texans next possession, and with just under three minutes to play the Texans had a 37-32 lead.
The first half closed with the Mustangs making their last three field goals. No. 10 Tarleton State took a slim 41-39 advantage over rival Midwestern State into the locker room. Eight different Texans scored at least 4 points in the half, and both teams shot over 50-percent from the field.
Midwestern State came out of the locker room and scored the first five points of the second half. The Texans pulled to within one, but an Xavier Blackburn triple followed by two Khapri Alston free throws extended the Mustang lead to 6.
The lead grew to seven points before a technical foul was called on Midwestern’s Bretson McNeal. Lee made the most of the technical, sinking both from the charity stripe. Hamilton was fouled and made two more free throws on the same possession and the Texans had pulled back to within 3.
By the 10-minute mark of the second half it looked as though Midwestern was beginning to pull away. The Texans were 1-8 from the field and shooting just 14-percent. TSU saw its halftime lead turn into a 9-point deficit, trailing 61-52. Tarleton State needed a spark.
Hardge kept his hot hand going from the charity stripe, making both attempts after a hard foul in the lane. The Texan full-court pressure forced a Mabry steal and then the much needed spark. Tarleton swung the ball around the arch to a wide open Mabry and he ripped a three through the net. Hamilton worked his late game magic again. He stole a pass on the Mustangs ensuing possesion and threw down another monster jam over a defender in the lane. The Texans fought their way back and pulled to within 2, 69-67, with 3:44 left in the contest.
An off-balance three by MSU’s McNeal as the shot clock expired jumped the Mustang lead back up to 6 points. Hardge continued to do what he has become accustomed to. The guard drove the lane, drew the foul, got the basket to count and made the and-1. The Texans trailed 74-71 with 1:44 on the game clock.
Mabry hit another clutch three to pull the Texans to within a 76-74 score. A Mustang turnover on the offensive end gave the Texans the ball back with 36 seconds left to play. Tarleton turned the ball right back over in its own lane. 12 seconds were left on the clock and the Texans fouled immediately, sending McNeal back to the line.
McNeal hit both of his opportunities from the line. Carter had a powerful put back dunk for the Texans with just 4 seconds left. The Texans fouled again on the inbound, and sent MSU back to the line. A missed attempt was rebounded by the Texans and Lee’s half-court prayer went without an answer. The No. 10 Texans dropped their second game in seven days, 78-76.