By BRAD KEITH
GOLDEN, Colo. (March 11, 2017) — For the eighth straight year and 14th time in the past 16 seasons, Tarleton State is back in the NCAA Division II Basketball Championship.
The Texans have won each of the last two South Central Region championships, their third and fourth regional titles the past 12 years, and the journey toward a regional three-peat begins with the difficult task of slowing one of the region’s most potent offensive attacks.
Tarleton (22-7), the No. 4 seed in the regional, faces fifth-seeded and No. 23 nationally-ranked Fort Lewis College (25-6), at 8:30 p.m. CST Saturday at Lockridge Arena on the campus of Colorado School of Mines, the top seeded host of the tournament here in a western suburb of Denver.
Fort Lewis averages 90.1 points per game, led by 20.3 points from highly-praised senior guard Joshua Blaylock, who poured in 24 points, collected 5.7 rebounds and dealt 4.3 assists in last week’s Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout.
But Blaylock isn’t alone. The Skyhawks also have 6-4 sophomore guard Rasmus Bach averaging 18.2 points and Daniel Hernandez 10.3. Brandon Wilson, Alex Semadeni, Riley Farris and Will Morse make it seven players scoring more than eight per game.
Both teams have been regathering themselves in the latter part of the season, with Fort Lewis losing three of its last six after a 22-3 start. Tarleton also started 22-3, and at one point held a 2.5 game lead with three contests remaining in the Lone Star Conference. But the Texans have since lost four straight, though the last of those was an overtime thriller against Angelo State, who ended the season reaching the LSC tourney final after the return of talented senior point guard Prince Foster.
Ridell Camidge struggled of late – including six first-half turnovers in the LSC quarterfinal loss to ASU – but still averages 14.7 points per game, while Chantz Chambers, who took the lead in guard scoring over the past several outings, has lifted his average to 14.0.
Inside, Romond Jenkins, the LSC Defensive Player of the Year, averages 12.9 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots. He’s almost certain to finish the season as the first Texan to average a double-double since Eric Williams in 2008-09. His post partner is LSC Freshman of the Year Anthony Davis, who scores 9.9 per game and grabs 4.8 boards. Point guard Deshawn Riddick scores 9.6.
The Texans average 80.4 points and surrender 66.6. They have a net scoring average of 13.5, quite comparable to the 13.1 net scoring of FLC. The Texans out-rebound opponents by 6.9 per game, FLC by 0.9 per game, and FLC averages more assists – 17.3 to 13.1 – and slightly less turnovers – 12.1 to 13.1.
Tarleton was also the four seed last season when the Texans won the regional. They won it as the top seed the season before, topping Angelo State in each regional final.
Tarleton is 22-13 all-time in the NCAA tournament. A win Saturday would pit the Texans against top seed Colorado Mines or eighth-seeded Arkansas-Fort Smith. They meet at 6 p.m. (CST), so the winner will already be known when the Texans and Skyhawks take the court. The semifinal contest is Sunday at 8:30 p.m. (CST), following a 6 p.m. (CST) battle between the winners of No. 2 UT-Permian Basin/No. 7 Texas A&M-Kingsville and No. 3 West Texas A&M/No. 6 Texas A&M-Commerce.