By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (February 11, 2017) — Prince Foster has returned from injury, the Rams have beaten Midwestern State and Texas A&M-Commerce back-to-back and a crew from ESPN has made its way to Stephenville.
So if you are expecting a repeat of the 92-60 Tarleton State thrashing of Angelo State back on January 5 in San Angelo, forget about it.
ASU is coming to Wisdom Gym looking for its own made for TV story and WatchESPN will broadcast it. The Rams have not beat the Texans in Stephenville since February 8, 2001 and are just 2-19 here all time, including a 68-66 loss in a thrilling South Central Region championship final in 2015.
Tipoff in the 47th meeting of the Lone Star Conference rivals is 4 p.m. Saturday following a 2 p.m. women’s contest, also on WatchESPN.
No. 11 Tarleton (21-3, 12-2) is looking to retain its narrow lead atop the conference standings while ASU (14-7, 6-7) is trying to re-climb the ladder it had stumbled down in the face of adversity over the first half of league play.
The Rams lost Foster and Gustavs Puhovs to injury just before the Christmas break and no longer have point guard Lorenzo Dillard on their roster.
But Foster has returned and the Rams have begun what appears to be a 180-degree turn with their leader back and now quarterbacking the team from the point guard spot.
Foster played 18 minutes in the second of back to back losses to Texas A&M-Kingsville January 28, and ASU has won two of three since then, losing to Cameron, 85-77, before knocking off Midwestern, 74-67, then going on the road and thumping A&M-Commerce, 88-74.
Foster appears to have adjusted nicely to point guard, dealing eight assists while scoring 10 points at A&M-Commerce, where five Rams scored in double figures Thursday.
Tshikaya Thomas scored 14 inside, Michael Thomas 13, Devonte Pratt 12 and Quay King 12. Thomas is an athletic power forward who has played well against Tarleton during his ASU career, while King seems to get it done against just about everyone.
King is a 38 percent 3-point shooter averaging 19.5 points, second in the LSC. He was the lone Ram to give Tarleton much trouble in the January 5 rout at ASU, when he scored 17.
Tarleton, of course, has its own bevy of stars, beginning with center Romond Jenkins and his 13 double-doubles. Jenkins averages 12.5 points and 11.1 rebounds. He’s the leading rebounder in the conference and is trying to become the first Texan since Eric Williams in 2008-09 to average a double-double for the season.
Jenkins had 20 points in the second half at ASU a month ago, when he took a pass off the backboard and slammed it home to make ESPN SportsCenter Top 10 Plays of the Day. Chambers also starred in that blowout with 22 points and six steals.
For the season, Chambers averages 13.3 while backcourt mate Ridell Camidge leads the team at 15.3. Deshawn Riddick averages 9.7 points and 4.3 assists at point guard while freshman power forward Anthony Davis scores 9.6.
Davis is coming off arguably his best performance of the year. He hit four first half 3-pointers – on four attempts – and scored 16 in a 78-41 rout of A&M-Kingsville Thursday at Wisdom Gym. Camidge scored 20 and Chambers 18.
Tarleton is 10th in the nation in defensive scoring per game (64.0) and fourth in field goal percentage defense (38.2). But Thursday’s lockdown performance was impressive even for the Texans and defensive-minded head coach Lonn Reisman.
The 41 points by A&M-Kingsville ties the second fewest allowed by Tarleton against an LSC opponent since joining the conference and the NCAA in 1994-95. It’s the third fewest the Texans have ever surrendered to a Division II foe.
Tarleton won its fifth straight and holds a lead of 1.5 games atop the conference standings.
But while the Texans have their plans for winning a conference title, ASU is trying to be a spoiler and continue its own rise since the return of Foster under second-year head coach Cinco Boone.
ASU is currently seventh in the LSC, just a half game behind Cameron and one back of A&M-Kingsville.
Both have plenty to play for Saturday. And plenty will have the opportunity to see it, whether in person at Wisdom Gym, or anywhere worldwide with access to WatchESPN.