By BRAD KEITH
(December 19, 2015) — Free throws can make or break you and they broke Tarleton State Saturday afternoon.
The No. 7 Texans hit just 19 of 32 from the foul line (59 percent) and lost 68-67 to a Drury team that took the final lead on a pair of its own free throws with seven seconds remaining.
Grant Boswell hit the decisive free throws for Drury, and Mike Hardge lost the ball in the front court on the final possession, ending a five-game Texan win streak in their final game in the South Point Holiday Hoops Classic in Las Vegas.
Tarleton had won by an average of 23 points during the streak, but was playing from behind after a 14-1 first half run by Drury. Kameron Bundy fueled the run, scoring 20 in the first half to help the Panthers to a 38-31 lead at intermission.
Drury led by as many as 12 at one point before Tarleton cut it to seven at the break. The Texans continued to slowly fight their way back into it, thanks largely to the second half performance of sophomore guard Deshawn Riddick off the bench.
Riddick hit a pair of free throws to pull Tarleton within one, then followed a blocked shot by Xavier Smith with a deep 3-ball for a 54-52 lead. He hit another big 3-pointer just more than a minute later, opening up a 59-54 advantage with 6:12 remaining.
The Texans led by as many as six following a free throw by EJ Reed with 5:23 left, but Drury took over from there.
The Panthers used a 11-2 run to grab a 65-62 lead on a 3-point make by Tevin Foster with 2:07 left. Hardge cut it to one on two foul shots with 1:53 remaining, and after a Drury free throw, Hardge struck again with a 3-pointer for a 67-66 lead with 20 seconds left.
The game-winning free throws by Boswell came as the result of a rebounding foul after a miss by Bundy, who cooled off after halftime and finished with 24 points. It was the fifth foul against Reed, who fouled out for the third straight game.
Tarleton’s problems extended beyond the free throw line. The Texans allowed Drury to shoot 58 percent in the first half, when Bundy was 8-9. The Panthers cooled off significantly after halftime, and each team shot 44 percent.
The Texans had built a commanding rebounding differential over the past couple weeks, but even though they had 36 rebounds to 35 by Drury, it was the Panthers who grabbed 10 offensive rebounds and outscored Tarleton 11-5 in second chance points. Drury outscored Tarleton 300-18 in the paint.
Both teams struggled with turnovers in the first half, when Drury had 11 and Tarleton 10. The Texans gave away the ball five times in the second half, Drury just once.
The Texans continued to be balanced offensively, and Reed collected a Lone Star Conference leading sixth double-double. Reed had 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Charles Hill also scored 15 and Hardge netted 12. Riddick had nine off the bench.
Behind Bundy were there other double-digit scorers for Drury – Foster, who fouled out, with 13, Joshua Palmer 10 and Drew Moore 10.
The loss, which came 24 hours after the Texans drubbed No. 16 Rollins 73-51, means Tarleton head coach Lonn Reisman is stuck on 598 wins at the school. The Texans will try to give him No. 599 when they welcome Southeastern Oklahoma State to Wisdom Gym on December 31.