By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (November 28, 2015) — Tarleton State (5-1) bounced back in style just a night after its first loss, riding four double-digit scorers and 58 percent shooting to an 88-71 win over Ouachita Baptist (Ark.) (1-5) in the final game of the Thanksgiving Classic at Wisdom Gym Saturday.
Tarleton improved to 21-4 following a loss over the last five seasons and avoided losing two in a row for the first time since dropping four straight in 2012-13, a span of 88 games. Tarleton is home again Tuesday against lowly Arlington Baptist College. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. following a women’s contest between the same schools.
EJ Reed entered the contest as the leading scorer in the Lone Star Conference and had 14 points by halftime Saturday. He finished with 19 along with five rebounds, but the story for Tarleton was balance. Malcolm Hamilton had 16 points and 11 boards for his first career double-double. Reed and Hamilton combined to go 15-21 from the floor.
“Earlier in the day I was talking to my momma on the phone and she said I need a double-double tonight,” quipped Hamilton, a versatile senior forward. “I told her I was going to try and get it done, so this one is for her.”
Charles Hill scored 18 and Chantz Chambers 15 for the Texans. Hill was 5-8 after struggling fro the floor in three games preceding the classic.
“I’ve been spending a lot of time in the gym because my percentages have been crazy,” said Hill. “I just have to stay confident in my jump shot because I know I can hit it.”
Hill came off the bench, and says he doesn’t mind doing so.
“I’ve been there coming off the bench and starting. I’m not going to say I don’t want to start because everyone does, but sometimes when you come off the bench you have a chance to see how the game is going before you get out there,” Hill said, before Hamilton, who started Saturday but has rotated between the starting lineup and coming off the bench throughout his two seasons at Tarleton, added, “The only real difference is the starters get to run out between the cheerleaders at the start of the game.”
Head coach Lonn Reisman said Tarleton is far from set with its starting lineup and rotations.
“We haven’t found our lineup yet and that’s okay,” Reisman said. “I don’t really believe in starters, I believe in players.”
Michael Hardge and Xavier Smith each had eight for the Texans. Hardge did have five assists but knocked down just one field goal. He had just three field goals in two games in the classic.
The Texans continued to struggle from the arc, going 6-18, but made up for it by knocking down 26 of 31 free throws.
Ouachita Baptist, like seemingly all of the Division II opponents Tarleton has faced early in the season, was hot from the 3-point arc, particularly in the first half. The Tigers were 5-7 from downtown before halftime. They led 9-2 early on before Tarleton roared back with an 11-3 run for a 13-12 advantage.
There lead changed hands a few more times in the first half, but never after halftime, when the Texans led 44-34 thanks to a closing-seconds 3-ball from the left wing by Chambers, who was 3-ft from the floor and 7-8 from the stripe. Hardge was 6-7 at the line.
The Texans shot 61 percent in the first half and 56 percent in the second. OBU shot 52 percent before halftime, but Tarleton suffocated the Tigers in the second half, allowing them to hit just 27 percent.
OBU was led by Tirrell Brown with 19 points, six rebounds and three steals. Lakee Westbrook added 15 and David Berete 10.
Photos courtesy NATHAN BURAL/Tarleton Athletics