By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (January 2, 2015) — For head coach Lonn Reisman, there was nothing easy about the 27-plus years spent transforming Tarleton State from NAIA doormat to NCAA Division II power house.
It should come as no surprise, then, that there was nothing easy about his 600th win at Tarleton Saturday night at Wisdom Gym.
Nosa Ebomwonyi hit a 3-pointer for the final lead change, touching off a 14-3 finishing run by No. 12 Tarleton (11-2, 1-0) for a 71-61 Lone Star Conference victory that snapped the four-game win streak held by Cameron (8-6, 1-1).
The Aggies wiped out an 11-point second-half deficit and took a brief 58-57 lead on a driving layup by Tyus Momoh to complete a 15-3 run with 5:31 remaining.
But Tarleton had the last run in a game full of them, with the Ebomwonyi 3-pointer putting the Texans ahead with 5:12 to play before Michael Hardge stole the ball at half court, juked a defender at the block and converted a layup for a four-point lead.
Charles Hill hit a pair of free throws for a 64-58 advantage after two more defensive stops. Cameron finally scored on a Cameron Lee jumper, but Hill drove the baseline from the left corner for a layup at the 1:53 mark, then dunked the ball on a fast break with an assist from Hardge to make it 68-60.
HIll added another hard-driving layup with 57 seconds remaining, giving him eight points in the final 2:25 and 19 for the night. EJ Reed also had 19 to go with 12 rebounds, the seventh double-double of his senior season.
Tarleton also picked up 14 points, three assists and three steals from team captain Hardge, bringing the senior point guard within six points of becoming the fifth Tarleton player to record 750 points, 250 assists and 100 steals in a career. The past four were Tarleton greats Corin Henry, Ryan Huntley, Greg Manderson and Mark Smith.
Tarleton, which has won 11 of its first 13 for the eighth time under Reisman, has another tough LSC battle ahead on Wednesday when unbeaten Angelo State (12-0) rolls into Wisdom Gym for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff following a 5:30 p.m. women’s game.
Cameron was trying to come away with back-to-back road wins to begin LSC play after edging West Texas A&M, 83-80, Thursday night in Canyon. And there were moments it looked as if the Aggies would be successful in their bid for the road upset.
The first glimmer of hope for Cameron came when Reed started the game on the bench for Tarleton due to an unspecified violation of team rules, and the Aggies jumped ahead 7-0 over the first three minutes.
But once the LSC leading scorer checked in just past the 17-minute mark, he went right to work with four straight points to touch off a 14-0 Tarleton run. Reed missed only one minute the rest of the night, scoring 14 points and grabbing six boards by intermission. The power forward shot 50 percent from the floor and was 7-9 from the stripe in 36 minutes.
The Aggies came back strong with a 13-6 push, knotting it up at 20-20 just before the seven mark and at 23-23 a minute later, both on 3-pointers by Deondre Ray, who finished with 12.
A third straight long ball, this one from Delvonte Pierre, actually gave Cameron a 26-25 lead with 4:43 on the first half clock, but Reed put Tarleton back ahead on a layup 30 seconds later. Reed also hit three free throws in the final minute of the half, helping Tarleton to a 31-28 edge at intermission.
Cameron began the second half much the way it did the first, scoring five straight for a 33-31 lead. But Hill, who scored 17 after intermission, hit a layup, two free throws and a 3-pointer for a personal 7-0 run.
That was just the beginning of an extended run that appeared to put Tarleton back in control. After a Cameron layup cut it to 38-35, Hardge, Reed and Riddick all scored in the paint for Tarleton, making it a 14-2 run for a 44-35 lead with 14:35 left.
TheTarleton advantage grew to double digits on a free throw by Reed with 10:33 to play, and swelled to 54-43 on a Hardge 3-pointer with 9:03 left.
But Lee hit two 3-pointers during Cameron’s final rally that ended with the Momoh layup for a lead that would last only 19 seconds.
Tarleton entered the contest 14th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just over 64 points per game, and promptly limited the Aggies to 19 points below their season average of 80. Cameron entered the game shooting 49 percent but was just 38 percent against the Texans’ pressure cooker man-to-man defense.
Tarleton out-rebounded Cameron 40-32, and because Reed did not start and sophomore backup point guard Deshawn Riddick scored nine, the Texan bench outscored Cameron’s 32-7.
The score was tied six times and there were nine lead changes, typical for a rivalry that has seen three of the last five meetings determined by three points or less. That includes the last Cameron win over Tarleton back on February 20, 2013, in Lawton, Oklahoma, where they meet again on February 6.
Cameron, which had a third double-digit scorer in JV Long with 13, returns to action at Eastern New Mexico on Thursday.
Photos courtesy RUSSELL HUFFMAN
Photos courtesy Dr. CHET MARTIN
TheFlashToday.com photo by BRAD KEITH