By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (January 5, 2015) — Tarleton head coach Lonn Reisman may have found his next career.
If he keeps forecasting the future the way he did the keys to Wednesday night’s basketball game, a career as a fortune teller may await the veteran coach.
You know, when he’s done winning 600-plus games and knocking off top 10 opponents. Sometimes not just knocking them off, but dominating them from the onset, like what happened Wednesday night at Wisdom Gym.
No. 9 Tarleton (12-2, 2-0) dominated the backboards, just as Reisman said his team had to do, played dominating defense, just as he always pleads for them to, and left No. 4 Angelo State (12-1, 0-1) looking bewildered for long stretches during a 85-67 blowout.
“I thought we were very focused and prepared and really executed our game plan tonight,” said Reisman, whose club has not lost to ASU at home since 2001. “That’s what it takes against a team like that. You have to be prepared to defend the whole floor, because they can all score, and you have to be prepared to rebound with great intensity and tenacity and we did that.”
ASU entered the game as one of only three remaining unbeatens in Division II, but ended it as just another tally in an impressive streak by Tarleton. It’s the fourth straight win by the Texans involving two teams ranked in the top 10 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. The Texans beat No. 4 ASU last year at Wisdom Gym, where they also knocked off No. 10 Colorado-Colorado Springs in the semifinals of the South Central Regional. Tarleton then beat No. 9 Mount Olive (NC) in the quarterfinals at the Elite Eight.
Malcolm Hamilton was in attack mode from the onset and poured in a career-high 24 points for the Texans, while LSC scoring and rebounding leader EJ Reed added 18 points and 10 boards for his eighth double-double of the season. Charles Hill added 12 points.
“I just want to be aggressive on both sides of the floor,” said Hamilton. “When my offense isn’t there, I can still rebound and play good defense, but tonight it kind of all came together.”
Not just for him, but for the whole team.
Rebounding was the biggest difference, as Tarleton out-boarded ASU 49-31 including 17-7 on the offensive end. The Rams did not have an offensive rebound in the first half and did not score a single second-chance point in the game.
The Tarleton defense was its usual tenacious self, and ASU never answered the challenge. The Texans limited the Rams to 37 percent shooting. It’s the first time this year the Rams scored under 70 points or shot under 40 percent. They entered the game averaging 95 points and shooting 49 percent.
“It’s always huge anytime you can beat a good team, but especially one like that, that was undefeated and expected to be one of the best teams in our conference,” said Hamilton. “We are used to playing in big games, and we prepare for every one like it’s a big one so that we’re ready no matter who it is.”
Xavier Smith came off the bench for nine points and seven boards for Tarleton, while Michael Hardge had eight points and four assists. A senior point guard, Hardge became just the fifth player in school history with 750 points, 250 assists and 100 steals in a career, joining past greats Corin Henry, Ryan Huntley, Chris Givins and Mark Smith.
ASU was led by Tre Bennett with 20 points and Stedman Allen with 15. No other Ram scored more than six.
Tarleton dominated the backboards and built a 47-29 lead over the course of an impressive first half in which the Texans limited ASU to just 31 percent shooting despite the Rams going 6-12 from the arc.
Tarleton outscored ASU 20-4 in the paint, 13-0 in second-chance points and 14-5 off turnovers before intermission. Hamilton scored 14 before halftime, when Reed had 10 points and seven boards.
Tarleton visits Texas A&M-Kingsville at 8 p.m. Saturday. ASU returns home Saturday to face A&M-Commerce.