By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (November 13, 2015) — Malcolm Hamilton and EJ Reed each poured in 21 points and Michael Hardge added 13 with eight assists as No. 2 Tarleton State held off Colorado-Colorado Springs 75-66 to conclude opening day of the Texan Tip Off Classic Friday night at Wisdom Gym.
Tarleton concludes the classic against Adams State (Colo.) at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Reed, who also had nine boards, three steals and two blocks, was 8-10 shooting from the floor while Hamilton went 7-9 and collected six boards. The eight assists are a career high for Hardge who also had three steals.
The Texans shot 50 percent from the floor and used an 18-0 first half run to gain all the breathing room they would need in improving to 25-3 in season openers under head coach Lonn Reisman, who recorded his 590th win at Tarleton.
“We played a very good team knight that went to the second round last year and returns there starters,” said Reisman. “We knew this was going to be a tough opener for us.”
Tarleton led 23-5 after the early run and was ahead 34-17 at halftime before UCCS began to chip away.
Alex Welsh scored 12 of his 19 after halftime to lead the Mountain Lions. He also grabbed a dozen rebounds.
UCCS scored 49 points after halftime and cut the big deficit all the way to seven points before Hardge and Hamilton put the game away for Tarleton.
Twice in the home stretch Hardge threw oops for Hamilton dunks, and a third time he passed the ball off the backboard to allow his teammate to clean up.
“He’s awesome, always looking for you. When he drives and the defense collapses you have to be ready because he’s going to find you,” said Hamilton of Hardge. “We preach ball movement – swinging it around and finding the open man.”
Hamilton also hit a step-back 3-pointer that stuck a dagger in the UCCS comeback effort.
“I think we played pretty well, at least in the first half, but in the second half we have to pick it up more on the defense end to stop the second chance points and close out better to stop them from shooting open threes.”
Colorado Springs hit five of its seven three-pointers after halftime, when the Mountain Lions scored 49 points. Alex Welsh had 12 of his 19 after intermission, and also grabbed 12 total rebounds for the only double-double of the game.
“We got strung out a little more in the second half than we should have, and had some foul trouble,” said Reisman, who guided Tarleton to its first Lone Star Conference league-wide regular season title, its third South Central Region championship and a modern-era school record 31 wins last season. “But we played hard, we got to look at some different rotations and we continued getting more comfortable with each other on the court. That’s what I want to see in a season opener.”
He said the new shot clock – 30 seconds instead of 35 – also played a role, because it benefits teams – such as UCCS and other members other Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference – who are used to playing fast.
“With a 30 second shot clock no one is out of the game. There are more possessions and the pace is faster,” Reisman said. “We have to get used to it, though, because it isn’t changing back. It’s the same for everyone, and we have to find a way to be as strong defensively as we’ve always been.”
Angelo State defeated Adams State 75-71 in the other men’s game Friday. ASU faces UCCS at 2 p.m. Saturday.