By BRAD KEITH
(February 24, 2018) — Tarleton State won a coin flip for the No. 3 seed, relegating Texas A&M-Commerce to No. 4 in the Lone Star Conference Championship tournament next week in Frisco.
The event is moving to Dr Pepper Arena after six years at Allen Event Center, where the Texans captured their second and third tournament titles. Tarleton last won the tournament in 2014, also the last time the Texans last won at least a share of the LSC regular-season title.
The latter went to West Texas A&M for the seventh time Saturday, when the Buffs earned their first road victory at Tarleton since 2009, pushing them one game ahead off second-place UT-Permian Basin, which struggled spending the final week of the regular season on the road.
The Falcons were ripped 78-54 at Tarleton Thursday, thanks to a 35-4 Texan run over the opening 12 minutes of the second half. Texas A&M-Commerce dominated in similar fashion in a 85-56 home-court thumping of UTPB on Saturday that had to mean a lot to the Lions after losing on a second chance bucket that photos show was not released before there were zeroes on the clock at the end of regulation in Odessa. If officials had made the correct decision after reviewing the play, A&M-Commerce would have held on to the one-point lead, and at that point, the Lions would been alone in first place in the LSC.
Conference officials had to be relieved to see the Buffs – or anybody, really – win the title outright and not share the title with UTPB or fall one game short of the Falcons. Of course, the Lions are still the ones penalized, as they would have taken the No. 3 seed outright with no coin flip to give that spot to the Texans.
A&M-Commerce is the only team entering the tournament with consecutive victories, while Tarleton is as hot as anyone with six straight wins before the narrow loss – 82-76 – to WTAMU Saturday. Of course, the Buffs had won eight straight before just a one-point set back at A&M-Commerce, then they jumped right back into the win column at Tarleton, traditionally one of the toughest spots in the league to pick up a road win. The Buffs, for example, had not won at Wisdom Gym in Stephenville since 2009.
The No. 5 seed is Angelo State, which opens against A&M-Commerce. Tarleton faces Cameron, the No. 6 seed after winning a coin flip with Midwestern State. MSU is seeded seventh and catches a suddenly questionable UT-Permian Basin club. The No. 8 seed that will be looking to slow the Buffs is Eastern New Mexico, no slouch as the Greyhounds beat Tarleton in Portales, NM and the Texans needed the first game-winning buzzer-beater by a freshman in 30 seasons under Lonn Reisman to beat them in Stephenville.
The WT-ENMU winner faces TAMUC or ASU in one semifinal, while the winner of UTPB-MSU gets Tarleton or Cameron in the other.
The Tarleton-Cameron match-up is the first game of the men’s tournament at noon on Friday. This year the men are subject to the Friday-Saturday-Sunday format and the women are playing Thursday-Saturday and Sunday.
A win would pit the Texans against UT-Permian Basin or MSU at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The championship tips off at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
UTPB is the reigning champ after winning the final tournament in Allen last season.
Tarleton is the only LSC program to have played previously in Dr Pepper Arena. The LSC was the host conference for the NCAA Division II Elite Eight in 2016, and the Texans lost to eventual national champion Augustana (SD) despite leading by double digits in the second half.
Teams will arrive in Frisco on Wednesday and attend the LSC Awards Banquet that evening. Women’s games begin at noon on Thursday.