By Brad Keith
STEPHENVILLE (Nov. 13, 2014) — College basketball tips off nationwide Friday, and locals can get their own taste with the Texan Tipoff Classic and TexAnn Tipoff Classic, both at Wisdom Gym.
“We’ve been doing this since I came here in 1988,” said 27th year Tarleton men’s head coach and university athletic director Lonn Reisman. “We added the women to it a couple years ago, and we’re glad to have them be a part of it. It’s good for both teams, and it’s a great chance for our fans to see some good basketball on the opening weekend of the season.”
Tarleton’s women and men play at 5 and 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, the final two of four games each day. The No. 12 Texans open their season against New Mexico Highlands Friday and conclude the weekend against Lubbock Christian on Saturday. The women play Southern Arkansas Friday and St. Mary’s Saturday. All of those games are counted as regional contests because they are against either a team that is in the South Central Region or a team in a state bordering Texas.
The Highland men were 11-15 last season including an 8-14 mark in the talent-laden RMAC.
“Highlands is out of the RMAC and we’ve learned the last couple years just how competitive that league is,” said Reisman. “Highlands was in some very good ball games against teams that we saw in the regional tournament last year, so we have to be ready for them to be a very tough opponent.”
It’s the first meeting between Tarleton and Highlands, but Lubbock Christian is a more familiar opponent. The Texans beat LCU 87-60 last season at Wisdom Gym, and are 3-0 in the all-time series. Lubbock Christian went 17-8 last season, its first in NCAA Division II.
“Lubbock Christian has a lot of talent, and they beat some good teams last year,” said Reisman. “They are a team on the rise in Division II with a very well run athletic program, and that should be a great game to finish off the weekend.”
Southern Arkansas, the TexAnns’ first opponent, came within an eyelash of upsetting Division I North Texas, falling 75-74 in an exhibition that went to overtime last week. The Muleriders were 12-15 last season and are facing Tarleton for the first time.
The TexAnns are 4-10 all-time against St. Mary’s, including a 74-73 overtime win in San Antonio in last season’s opener. The Lady Rattlers, who dropped a recent exhibition to Texas-El Paso (UTEP) 77-50, went 20-10 and qualified for the South Central Regional last season.
“We’re excited to get both seasons going, and excited to usher in a new era with our women’s program,” said Reisman, who as athletic director selected longtime assistant and past TexAnn player Misti Wilson to take over as head coach of the TexAnns after Ronnie Hearne retired at the end of last season. “It’s an exciting time for them, and it’s an exciting time for us. It’s a new season, there is a freshness to the air, and I think everyone is anxious to see where we’re at early in the year.”
Both Tarleton teams dropped exhibitions to Big 12 opponents. The Texans traveled to TCU and almost overcame a 21-point deficit on Nov. 6, falling 69-61. With just over three minutes left, Tarleton trailed by and TaShawn Mabry, who poured in 22 points and collected 10 rebounds, put a 3-point try on line only to see it bounce out. TCU scored the next seven to take control.
The TexAnns visited No. 6 Baylor Monday and lost 102-41. Morgan Ashmore led Tarleton with eight points and five assists.
The afternoon games Friday and Saturday feature women at noon and men at 2 p.m. St. Mary’s and Angelo State begin the women’s classic Friday, followed by a men’s game between Texas A&M-Commerce and Lubbock Christian.
Angelo State’s women face Southern Arkansas at noon Saturday, followed by the A&M-Commerce men against New Mexico Highlands.
A&M-Commerce’s men were impressive in exhibition play, stunning Big 12 member Texas Tech 72-69 in overtime last Saturday, three days after losing by just nine, 80-71, at Southeastern Conference member Texas A&M.