By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (November 14, 2017) — It took big all-around performances from the biggest players for Tarleton State to shake loose pesky Division III visitor Sul Ross State in an 80-76 Texan win Tuesday evening.
There were more than 30 minutes played at Wisdom Gym before Tarleton (2-1) grabbed its first lead. Josh Hawley dunked a lob from Deshawn Riddick to bring the Texans within one, and Jaraan Lands followed a with a pair of fouls shots for a 55-54 edge.
Sul Ross led once more, but Hawley drained a deep right-wing 3 to make it 58-56 and the Texans were ahead for good. Lands eventually gave them their largest lead, 78-71, with another pair from the stripe.
A 6-7, 250-pound junior forward who transferred to Tarleton from Division I Albany State (NY), Lands scored 20 points, grabbed nine rebounds, worked the ball from inside out for three assists, stole it twice and blocked a shot. Hawley was also a rebound shy of a double-double, as the 6-8 sophomore had 15 points, nine boards and three blocks.
The Texans needed all that plus 15 points, four boards and two assists by Corinthian Ramsey and 10 points, five rebounds, four helpers, two blocks and a steal, Riddick, their senior point guard.
“We’ve done some nice things offensively, but defense is where I think we can get a lot better,” said Riddick. “We just have to come out and work hard every day in practice so we can correct the things we’re doing wrong.”
The senior leader has been impressed with Lands, one of several transfers joining the Texan roster this season.
“He gives us a real good presence in the paint and obviously has a strong inside game and good outside game,” Riddick said. “He can really fish at the rim and that’s making the team better.”
Sul Ross showed up with more than typical Division III talent. It was the final exhibition from their perspective, having already turned a lot of heads in a narrow loss to Division I UT-El Paso. Caleb Thomasson scored 20 and the Lobos were tied 34–34 at halftime in that pre-season test, ultimately losing 78-70.
One of five double-digit scorers Tuesday was Gary Rngo, Jr., a star for the 2015 NJCAA Division I national semifinalist Ranger College team that later forfeited its wins because an ineligible player appeared in every game.
Ringo scored 12 for the Lobos who were led by CJ Ross with 16. Stephen Walker and Thomasson each had 14 points and eight rebounds as Sul Ross managed to match the larger Texans with 45 total boards. Conner Dawson scored 10.
Walker gave the Lobos a glimmer of hope in the fins seconds. Lands and Ebomwonyi missed two free throws each before Walker hit a 3 to trim it to 79-76. Hawley was fouled with under three seconds left and his first attempt was the fifth straight Tarleton miss before his second found the bottom of the net, finally icing the Texans victory.
The Lobos started 3-4 form the arc, jumping out to a 15-2 lead. They later broke a tie with seven straight points to go up 29-22 and were still on top 39-33 at halftime.
Tarleton didn’t begin the game with as much intensity as Sul Ross but climbed out of the early deficit with a 15-2 run of its own that included four points each from Ramsey and Lands and a 3 by Riddick
Tarleton hosts Central Oklahoma Saturday at 6 p.m. The Texans and Bronchos have not met since UCO and other Oklahoma schools defected from the Lone Star Conference in 2011. Now members of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association that in the past shared a region with Tarleton, the Bronchos are 2-1 overall and coming off an 85-74 win over Oklahoma Christian.
The 6 p.m. start is a change from original plans due to the Lone Star Conference Volleyball Championship that Tarleton is hosting after the TexAnns won the 2017 LSC Championship.
Sul Ross begins its regular season at 7 p.m. Thursday in Marshall, Texas against Louisiana, College.