(February 14, 2015) — No. 11 Tarleton State kept taking charge, but Texas A&M-Kingsville kept refusing to go away.
The Texans (22-2, 9-2) led by as many as 17 on multiple occasions, starting with a 37-20 halftime lead, and held off every A&M-Kingsville (7-16, 2-9) charge for down the stretch to win their ninth straight, 75-70, at the Steinke Center in Kingsville.
Tarleton attempted 43 free throws, its most since an overtime battle with Midwestern State on Feb. 5 of last year. There were 58 combined fouls, matching the most in a Tarleton game this season.
The Texans navigated the foul fest by shooting 48 percent from the floor, 54 percent from the arc and 70 percent from the stripe, where they were 30-43. They attempted more free throws than field goals (40) on their way to beating A&M-Kingsville for the 10th time in their last 11 meetings.
TaShawn Mabry and Michael Hardge each scored 16 points to lead Tarleton, which featured balanced scoring throughout the win to improve to 5-1 on the road this season. Mo Lee scored 14 while collecting five rebounds and three assists, and Damion Clemons added 10 points and five boards off the bench.
The Javelinas shot just 33.3 percent on their home floor and dropped their third straight. They were led by Duan Wright and Don Thomas with 15 points and 11, respectively. They were the only A&M-Kingsville starters to avoid fouling out.
The first time A&M-Kingsville pulled within five, TaShawn Mabry answered five straight for Tarleton, making it 54-44 with 9:22 left. A 3-pointer with a foul that was turned into a 4-point play by Hardge highlighted the continuing run, a 13-2 push for a 62-46 lead with 6:56 remaining.
But A&M-Kingsville made one final stand, with Thomas, Wright and Jordan Jahr each hitting 3-pointers in a span of 71 seconds to make it a seven-point game.
DJ Weathers scored in the paint to cut it to 64-59 with 4:12 left, but Mabry answered with a Tarleton layup, then Mo Lee and Michael Hardge combined to make it 69-59 from the foul stripe.
Jahr gave the Javelinas one last breath of life with a 3-pointer for a seven-point deficit and 1:15 still to go, but ultimately a pair of EJ Reed free throws made it a 3-posession Tarleton advantage with only 10 seconds left.
The Texans led the whole way after Hardge hit a 3-pointer just 19 seconds into the game. The opening shot was a good omen, as Tarleton went on to shoot 63 percent from the floor including 56 percent from the arc in the opening half, building the first 17-point lead that A&M-Kingsville could never overcome.
The journey through the Lone Star Conference – where Tarleton is in second place just a game behind an Angelo State team the Texans defeated on Wednesday – doesn’t get any easier. Tarleton travels to Canyon Wednesday to face a West Texas A&M team the Texans defeated 76-71 in Stephenville on January 21. The Buffs have won five of their last six including 88-73 at Cameron Saturday.