By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (December 1, 2016) — During the first media timeout of the second half, Lonn Reisman had a decision to make – stick with what led to a 38-31 deficit with 15:03 remaining, or change it up.
“We went to the zone,” said Reisman, the 29th year head coach at Tarleton State. “We had to show them something different.”
As usual for the winningest active college coach in Texas, it worked.
No.16 Tarleton (5-1, 1-0) limited Midwestern State (6-2, 0-1) to just 5-29 shooting the rest of the way as the Texans came from behind to win, 64-56, on opening night of Lone Star Conference play Thursday at Wisdom Gym.
It’s the 10th straight meeting between the arch-rivals to be decided by eight points or less, the first in that stretch in which the margin was more than six. Tarleton has won six of the 10, beginning with a 53-50 victory in the 2013 LSC Championship final.
The Texans face another tough home test Saturday when Cameron (7-1, 1-0) comes knocking at 4 p.m. Midwestern visits equally tough Texas A&M-Commerce (6-1, 0-1) at the same time.
Ridell Camidge made the biggest offensive plays of the second half for Tarleton, and Romond Jenkins dominated in the paint.
Camidge shrugged off a 1-7 start from the field, hitting a right-wing 3-pointer to bring Tarleton within 47-44, then burying a left-wing 3 with a foul and adding the free throw for a 4-point play and a 48-47 Texan lead with 9:50 remaining.
“My teammates picked me up tonight. They kept saying keep your head up, keep shooting, and they finally started falling for me,” said Camidge, who added of the four-point play, “I saw he was trailing me, so I knew the shot would be there if I could get it off quick. I did, and he kicked me on the way by, so I got the ‘And-1.’”
Tarleton would never trail again.
Camidge, who led the Texans with 15 points, tossed an alley-lop to Jenkins moments later, and the senior center slammed it home as part of a 12 point, 13 rebound, three block, two assist performance.
“It’s very, very, very important,” Jenkins emphasized, when asked about starting conference play with a win. “They’re our rival so it’s always big when we play them, and to get one against them to start off the conference is big for us.”
That oop and smash made it 53-49, and Jenkins also scored with a foul and knocked down the free throw to push the advantage to 59-52 with 3:49 left.
Midwestern, which shot just 27.4 percent, had no answer in the closing minutes, and Camidge did more damage on a 3-pointer with 48 seconds left that provided what proved to be the game’s final points.
Denzel Smith came off the bench to go 4-5 from the floor and score 14 points for Tarleton, while Brandon Neel scored 15, Richard Magnus 14 and Pat Smith 13 for MSU.
“Every time these two teams get together it’s a war. Every rebound, loose ball, every possession is a battle within that war, and you have to make adjustments and try to put your team in a position to win,” said Reisman. “I feel like when we get together it’s two great teams, and (Nelson Haggerty is) a great coach, and anytime I can get out of a game against them with a win I just feel very blessed and glad to get on to the next one.”
Tarleton won despite MSU taking 23 more shot attempts thanks to 21 offensive rebounds and 18 Texan turnovers. The Mustangs were just 9-36 from the field in the second half, while it took more than 24 minutes for Tarleton to hit its 10th field goal in the defensive struggle.
Tarleton shot 46.2 percent in the second half, and 40 percent for the game after hitting only 33.3 percent in the first half. More importantly, the Texans were 11-20, 55 percent, over the final 15 minutes, when MSU shot only 17.2 percent.
Tarleton helped minimize MSU’s shooting percentage with eight blocked shots. Besides Jenkins’ three, Josh Hawley and Smith blocked two each. Hawley started in the place of Anthony Davis, his fellow redshirt freshman forward, because Davis was out with a concussion.
MSU was also shorthanded, playing without the injured Sheldon Hagigal, and losing freshman standout Logan Hicks to a leg injury during the first half. He was helped off the court and did not return.
The first half featured an MSU comeback, led by Magnus.
Tarleton used its vintage man-to-man defense to hold MSU to just 4-20 shooting to start the game, and the Texans led 19-9.
But the Mustangs came to life right as Tarleton hit an offensive lull against the equally impressive MSU man defense, and an 11-1 run evened it up at 20-20 about the five-minute mark.
Tarleton answered with five straight on a pair of Chantz Chambers free throws and a left-corner Deshawn Riddick 3. A free throw exchange was followed by a left elbow jumper from Richards, cutting it to 27-24.
The Mustangs eventually took their first lead on a pair of foul shots by Pat Smith, then stole the ball away from the Texans as they tried to hold for the last shot. Richards, who scored 10 before the break, dunked the ball just before the buzzer to send the teams to the locker room with MSU up 30-27.
*Tarleton cut Midwestern’s all-time lead in the series to 27-26.
*Tarleton won its LSC opener for the third time in four years, while MSU dropped a conference opener for the first time since 2008.
*It was Toys4Kids night at Wisdom Gym, and longtime Texan Club leader David Tomlinson reported more toys were collected than ever before.
TheFlashToday.com photos by RUSSELL HUFFMAN