By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (November 17, 2017) — Lonn Reisman is coaching his 30th men’s basketball team at Tarleton State.
Before a 71-63 loss to Central Oklahoma Saturday, his 14th Texan team was the last to suffer two losses in its first four games.
Reisman can only hope the valiant comeback effort that cut a 25 point deficit to six is a sign his 30th team can bounce back as well as his 14th, which lost its first two contests to Wingate (NC) and Texas A&M-Commerce before winning 13 of the next14 and ultimately making the program’s first appearance in the NCAA Division II tournament.
At the very least he has to hope team 30 can avoid repeating the porous start to the game – missing 10 of the first 12 shots from the field and going scoreless more than four minutes while UCO scored 11 straight for an 18-8 lead.
Reisman warned growing pains would lie ahead for a team long on talent but short on experience and chemistry. The Texans have yet to have all their eligible players dress for the same contest, as guard Brandon Johnson made his debut just in time for forward Jesse Hill to sit out after twisting an ankle four days prior against Sul Ross State.
Unfortunately, those growing pains lasted longer than just the initial five minutes Saturday. Riddick broke a long scoring drought with a 3-pointer that trimmed the margin to 18-11, but UCO responded with a 7-0 run in a span of 61 seconds.
Tarleton went on another drought late in the half, failing to hit a single field goal after a Josh Hawley layup just before the 3-minute mark. Hawley hit two free throws with 1:49 remaining, giving him all of Tarleton’s paltry four points over the final 4:28 of the half.
UCO took advantage, scoring the last five points the half for a 43-25 lead at intermission. The Bronhchos also scored the first six points of the second half, the 11-0 run providing their largest lead of 49-25 with 17;35 remaining.
Tarleton was desperate for a spark, and that’s exactly what they found when Brandon Johnson checked in with 16:59 on the clock.
Johnson made no indications of turning the game around in a brief first-half appearance, but he did just that in the second half of his debut with the Texans, beginning eight seconds after checked in with the first of five steals that led to nine points and two assists.
The immediate impact made by the energized Johnson led to an 11-0 run in his first 99 seconds back on the court, the last five coming off his steal and assist for a Corinthian Ramsey 3, followed by a steal he laid in himself to make it 48-36 with 15:20 left.
Five minutes later UCO had scored seven straight to lead 62-42. But Johnson got loose for a fastbreak dunk to cut it to 62-48, and later stole the ball and dealt an assist to a streaking Ramsey for a layup that brought Tarleton within 66-56 with 3:18 still to play.
Johnson scored a layup in transition to make it a seven-point game, and the Texans pulled within six on an Ebomwonyi split at the line.
It would have been a one-possession game at that point if Jaraan Lands hadn’t missed a layup and Ramsey had made more than four of eight free throws after entering the game hitting 89.2 percent from the stripe.
But for that matter, Tarleton would not have trailed at all down the stretch if not for shooting just 16.7 over the first seven minutes or being outrebounded 24-13 while turning the ball over 12 times over the first 24 minutes.
While Reisman and the Tarleton faithful are left to hope the final 16 minutes and change are a sign of better days ahead, they weren’t enough to change the outcome of the game at hand.
The Bronchos were led by Marqueese Grayson with 18 points and four assists while Marquis Johnson scored 13 and dropped five dimes. Anthony Roberson and Corbin Byford each added nine points.
Hawley scored 16 and collected nine boards for Tarleton, which out-boarded UCO 18-12 down the stretch, trimming the Bronchos total margin on the glass to 36-31.
Ramsey scored 15, with 12 and two of his five assists coming in the final 16 minutes. Lands was just 1-4 shooting but went 9-10 from the foul stripe to score 11 while blocking two shots.
Tarleton is idle until next Saturday, November 24, when St. Mary’s visits Wisdom Gym for a 4 p.m. matinee.