By BRAD KEITH
(February 18, 2015) — With 13 seconds on the game clock and just one on the shot clock, Mo Lee banked in a hard-driving leaner to give No. 11 Tarleton State the last lead of the night in a 64-60 Lone Star Conference win at West Texas A&M.
Miles Gatewood missed a 3-point attempt for the lead at the other end, and Tarleton’s E.J. Reed grabbed the biggest rebound of the game. Reed was immediately fouled and hit both free throws to seal the win for the top-ranked team in the South Central Region at the First United Bank Center in Canyon.
Lee finished with 23 points, his fifth 20-point performance during Lone Star Conference play.
“He’s a senior and he’s been in big games his whole life,” Tarleton State head coach Lonn Reisman said of Lee. “I like a guy who wants the ball in his hands when the game is on the line, and he wants the ball in his hands. I can’t think of a better person to put the ball in somebody’s hands than Mo Lee at the end of a ball game.”
Reed wasn’t a bad option to have the ball down the stretch, either. The Texans improved to 11-0 with the junior forward in the starting lineup after he scored 14 points and collected six boards.
“He’s playing well and he’s got some confidence,” said Reisman regarding Reed. “He hit two big free throws with three seconds left to put the game out of reach.”
Tarleton extended its win streak to 10 and improved to 51-5 dating back to the start of last season. The Texans have won four straight road games determined by five points or less. But it was far from easy, especially with two of the longest bus trips of the season coming back-to-back.
“We just got in from Kingsville at 5 a.m. (Sunday) morning, and now we’re here and I don’t think I’ve recovered from the last trip yet,” quipped Reisman. “West Texas A&M is always a very tough place to play, and I’m very pleased with our kids and how they have handled this journey the last few days.”
The Texans will be back at home Saturday for a date with Eastern New Mexico. Tipoff is approximately 7 p.m. following a women’s contest at 5 p.m.
Tarleton never trailed after starting the second half on a 15-4 run – with seven of the points coming from Lee – but there were plenty of nervous moments down the stretch.
Tarleton led 46-38 following a pair of Lee free throws with 10:48 remaining, but West Texas A&M answered with a pair of Tez Dumars foul shots followed by a 3-pointer and two free throws by David Chavlovich for a 7-2 spurt and a three-point deficit. It was 58-54 before Chavlovich and Gatewood each hit two freebies to even it up with 1:18 left.
Lee attacked the basket and was fouled, hitting two free throws to put Tarleton ahead with 58 seconds remaining, but Chavlovich answered with a driving runner 12 seconds later.
Tarleton called timeout with 35 seconds on the clock, and managed to get the ball to Lee late in the shot clock. He drove hard from the right wing before banking in what was ultimately the game winner. Lee, who is averaging 19 points over the last nine games, was 15-18 from the stripe. Tarleton was 25-35 from the line, compared to 10-17 by West Texas A&M.
Tarleton shot 50 percent in the second half and 40.5 percent for the game after starting slow and hitting just 31.8 percent in the opening half. West Texas A&M scored the game’s first seven points, and though the Texans tied it at 11-11, they never led before the intermission when the Buffs were up 28-24.
Chavlovich, a true freshman, scored 19 points after pouring in 26 against Tarleton in Stephenville on Jan. 21, when the Texans won 76-71. Dumars, a senior guard, did not have a field goal Wednesday, and was just 2-15 from the floor in his final two regular season matchups with Tarleton.
Joining Chavlovich in double figures for the Buffs were Carl White, another freshman, with 14, Miles Gatewood with 12 and Antjuan Ball with 10. The Buffs entered the game with a record of 8-1 when hitting 10 or more 3-pointers, but were just 8-26 (30.8 percent) from the arc against the Texans.
“That was one of (associate head coach Chris Reisman’s) keys to this game was making them put the ball on the floor and shoot twos, because when they hit 10 or more threes their record is tremendous,” said Reisman. “I thought our guys did a great job of executing our game plan on the defensive end, and it shows with them only scoring 60 points.”
Indeed. The Buffs entered the contest averaging 78 points per game, and had not scored 60 or less since a January 14 loss to Angelo State. They were fresh off an 88-point outburst in a 15-point road win at Cameron last Saturday. They scored 73 in a 13-point home win over Midwestern State last Wednesday.
Note: Tarleton State took over the all-time lead in its head’s up series with West Texas A&M, 24-23. The Texans remain alone in second place in the LSC, half a game behind No. 10 Angelo State and now two games ahead of third-place Midwestern State. ASU defeated MSU 78-59 Wednesday night in San Angelo. ASU and Tarleton have secured the top two seeds in the upcoming LSC Championship March 4-7 in Allen, though which team will be No. 1 has not yet been determined.