By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (November 27, 2015) — Tarleton State’s stay atop the national basketball rankings will last just one week.
Bronson Moton buried a right wing 3-pointer with only three-tenths of a second left in overtime, lifting Colorado State-Pueblo (4-1) to an 87-84 upset of No. 1 Tarleton (4-1) in the Thanksgiving Classic Friday night.
Tarleton concludes the Thanksgiving Classic against Ouachita Baptist (Ark.) at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Along with its lofty ranking, Tarleton also lost its 33-game home win streak against non-conference teams, falling at home against an opponent from outside the Lone Star Conference for the first time since the 2012-13 season opener. The Texans also held a 13-game home win streak dating back to conference play of last year.
Michael Hardge hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to tie it for Tarleton with 11.3 seconds remaining, but the Thunderwolves brought the ball into the front court uncontested, as Tarleton elected not to rely on the full court pressure that fueled its 11-point comeback down the stretch in regulation.
Moton took a pass, used a ball fake to get defender EJ Reed to step past him and was left with an open look for the game winner. Moton led CSUP with 20 points while also collecting eight rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Tarleton wiped out a 55-44 deficit over the final nine minutes of regulation, trailing by nine as late as the 4:15 mark. But Malcolm Hamilton scored 12 points in the final 4:15 to bring Tarleton back. That included an emphatic slam dunk on an alley-oop pass from Hardge, tying the game at 73-73 with 44 seconds remaining.
Hardge got a steal with 31 seconds left, and Tarleton called timeout before going inside to EJ Reed. The senior forward had 22 points, 10 boards and three steals but couldn’t hit a contested shot in the paint at the buzzer.
Hamilton had 18 points, eight rebounds and four assists for Tarleton, but Hardge was in foul trouble for much of the first half and did not hit a field goal until overtime. He had six points, four assists and two steals.
Division I post transfer Xavier Smith was more active inside on the offensive end for Tarleton, posting his first double-double of 16 points and 10 boards. The Texans out-rebounded CSU-P 49-36 but shot just 39.7 percent from the game including just 5-24 (20.5 percent) from the arc.
It was the first overtime game for Tarleton since playing two in one week in February, 2014, when they lost to Midwestern at home then defeated Cameron in Lawton, Okla.
CSU-P took advantage of what was a largely lifeless – thanks to weather and the holiday weekend – Wisdom Gym for much of the night and led for all but a brief few seconds of regulation. Joining Moton in double figures were Will Newman with 19, Nelson Kahler 11, Chris Golden 10 and Odessa Lear 10.
It was the second road upset in four days for CSUP, which on Tuesday knocked off No. 11 Midwestern State, 87-74, in Wichita Falls. CSUP faces Texas A&M-Kingsville at 5 p.m. Saturday. A&M-Kingsville defeated Ouachita Baptist, 82-65, in the opening game of the Thanksgiving Classic earlier Friday.
TheFlashToday.com photos by RUSSELL HUFFMAN