By BRAD KEITH
TheFlashToday.com NEWS & SPORTS – FREE & LOCAL
Yep, Big 12 Texas cruised past Division II No. 2 Tarleton State.
Why are you so surprised? It was supposed to go this way.
Unfortunately for us Division II followers, the stories of a Tarleton exhibition victory over Texas A&M, Baylor or Lamar, a Grand Valley State exhibition win over mighty Michigan State or a Tarleton regular season win over TCU are few and far between for the most part.
That’s why it’s Division I.
That’s why it’s an exhibition.
So Texas, which won 20 games last year then hired one of the most highly sought young head coaches in the country in Shaka Smart from Virginia Commonwealth, beat Tarleton 95-61.
News flash – The score never mattered. What’s on film does.
Forget the score – it was 95-61, just for the record – let’s focus on what we learned – or were reminded of – about Tarleton Friday night, one week before the season opening Texan Tipoff Classic at Wisdom Gym.
1. The offense works
Tarleton struggled to hit shots early, but if you watch the film, you can see guys getting open off screens in the motion offense. Michael Hardge got penetration at times, it just didn’t always lead to baskets against the athletic defense of Texas. When the Texans shoot the ball more efficiently – and they will – the reigning Lone Star Conference regular season champs will be at least as formidable offensively as they were at their peak last season.
2. Charles Hill Jr. can be a difference maker
The senior shooting guard who transferred from TCU has been on associate head coach Chris Reisman’s wish list since he was tormenting high school foes in Fort Worth. It’s easy to see why. Hill, who previously faced Texas in Big 12 games, scored 14 points. Tarleton “missed” on a Division I transfer at guard last season and made the Elite Eight and national semifinals despite being down a scholarship player all season. With Hill, it doesn’t appear that will be the case. He can and should be a difference maker, especially on the offense end.
3. Malcolm Hamilton is explosive
This is one of those reminders, not new knowledge. By the latter half of last season, Hamilton was routinely blowing past opponents and catching alley oops for thunderous dunks. Even against Texas, Hamilton, who collected 11 points, five boards and two blocks, had him a couple nice slams and reminded us of his prowess around the 3-point arc, too. This guy would be a solid reserve for many “high major” teams, let alone the mid majors. In Division II, he is a matchup nightmare.
4. Michael Hardge is simply invaluable
Hardge is the guy Tarleton simply can’t afford to lose. And for that reason, he may be as valuable as any player in Division II basketball. From Georgetown, a suburb of Austin, Hardge had reason to be more excited than most about the trip to the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, and it showed. He penetrated, took charges, scored 10 points and even rejected a Texas dunk attempt. Oh, and did you see that 40 foot 3-pointer he drained at the halftime buzzer. This is Tarleton’s glue guy, and as fierce a competitor as you can hope to find anywhere.
5. EJ Reed is the answer at high post
Reed came on strong the last half of 2014-15, much like Hamilton, to help the Texans to a modern era school record 31 wins and their third South Central Region title. Reed muscled in a basket in the first half against Texas, hit a 3-pointer, was 5-6 at the foul line and finished with 14 points, matching Hill for the team lead. Reisman would tell you he needs Reed grabbing more than two boards in 25 minutes, but lets see how he does on the glass against Division II opponents.
6. There is a lot of work to be done
Junior guard Louis Baltazar, a junior college All-American, didn’t even play. Head coach Lonn Reisman chalked it up to being new, saying there are only so many new players he can work into the rotation in such a short amount of time. It’s just a reminder the product you see on the court is simply raw potential at this point. Reisman labels Romond Jenkins his starting center, but Jenkins won’t be in the lineup until December. Tarleton opened the game with consecutive travels and ultimately committed 16 turnovers that led to 22 Texas points. Tarleton also must shoot better than 32.7 percent from the floor and 22.7 percent at the arc, but won’t face a defense as athletic as Texas even if they make a fourth trip to the Elite Eight.
Here’s a look at the box score from Friday’s exhibition: