By BRAD KEITH
(December 18, 2015) — Michael Hardge caught fire offensively and No. 7 Tarleton State (9-1) controlled No. 16 Rollins (9-2) most the way in a dominating 73-51 victory in the South Point Holiday Hoops Classic Friday afternoon.
Hardge, playing in his 106th career game and for the fifth time at South Point Arena, scored a career high 21 points, matched a career high with five steals and dealt four assists to lead the Texans, who held Rollins (Fla.) 37 points below its average of 88 points per game.
It’s the second straight high scoring team Tarleton suffocated with its tight man-to-man defense. Tarleton limited Texas-Permian Basin to 40 points below its average in a 74-58 win earlier in the week.
The victory in the first of two games in Las Vegas followed a similar script to the Monday triumph in Stephenville. Tarleton takes a five-game win streak into a Saturday afternoon showdown with Drury (Mo.). Tipoff is at 3:15 p.m. (CST).
EJ Reed secured his Lone Star Conference leading fifth double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Charles Hill finished with a flurry to score 18 along with three steals.
Tarleton took over just before halftime, with two 3-pointers by Hardge fueling a 19-6 run to take a 37-21 lead into the intermission.
The Texans also surged into the second half, especially during a sequence of Hardge hitting a 15 foot pull-up jumper, Deshawn Riddick burying a 3-pointer then Hardge swiping a steal and going coast-to-coast for a dunk.
The lead ultimately swelled to as many as 25 points for Tarleton, which is outscoring opponents by an average of 23 points during its win streak.
Tarleton continued to struggle from outside the arc, hitting only 28 percent, and was an uncharacteristic 56 percent from the foul stripe. the Texans shot 44 percent from the field for the game.
But their tenacious defense was the difference, as Rollins, which entered the game shooting 51 percent, hit only 35 percent, including just 25 percent from the arc.
Tarleton continued to own the backboards, collecting 44 rebounds to just 30 for Rollins. The Texans hit the offensive glass 16 times but turned the extra opportunities into just 14 points. Tarleton also scored 26 points off 21 Rollins turnovers.
Malcolm Hamilton had nine points and seven boards for Tarleton. Romond Jenkins, in his second game in the lineup, scored six points while snaring 10 rebounds.
Rollins, which began the season 9-0, was led by Sam Philpott, who came off the bench to net 13 points.