By BRAD KEITH
(January 23, 2016) — Plagued by foul trouble and cold shooting, Tarleton State could never get over the top against a West Texas A&M team that shot 62 percent from the 3-point arc in a 78-61 Lone Star Conference upset at First United Bank Center in Canyon Saturday.
Tarleton had its shot, cutting a 10-point deficit to two midway through the second half. It was 46-44 Buffs after a jumper by Charles Hill, who led the Texans with 16 points.
It was 50-45 before WTAMU went on a 9-1 run to lead by double digits again. Seven of the points came from the free throw line, and the run ended with a 3-point play by Jerrod Walton for a 55-45 lead.
Xavier Smith gave Tarleton hope with a 3-pointer to cut it to 55-48, but it was one of just three successful shots on 21 attempts by the Texans from long range. Still, Malcolm Hamilton cut it to 55-50 with a fast-break layup and it appeared Tarleton had stolen back some of the momentum.
But a couple of Buff free throws were followed by a 3-pointer from Jordan Evans to make it 61-50 and the Texans were never got closer than eight over the final 6:30. Evans led all scorers with 30 on the strength of a perfect 6-6 from the arc. He also had a two-point field goal and was a perfect 10-10 from the foul stripe.
Hill was as close as Tarleton had to an answer for Evans, though Mike Hardge scored 14 for Tarleton and Malcolm Hamilton tallied nine.
EJ Reed, the No. 2 scorer in the Lone Star Conference entering the game, was never a factor due to foul trouble. He drew two whistles in the opening minutes and sat out the rest of the first half. His third foul came early in the third, though he returned quickly. Still scoreless, Reed drew his fourth foul – his second offensive call away from the ball – then was immediately whistled for his fifth, a technical.
There was also a double technical between Hamilton and David Chavlovich, who scored netted 16 for the Buffs. It’s the fourth technical of the season against Hamilton, who by rule, will be suspended one game by the LSC.
Tarleton is still just one game out of first place in the LSC because No. 4 Midwestern State lost, 91-83, in overtime at Angelo State Saturday.
At the time of this writing, another potential potential upset was ongoing. Eastern New Mexico led Texas A&M-Commerce 48-43 with 9:49 left.
A&M-Commerce visits Tarleton next Saturday at 7 p.m,, following a 5 p.m. women’s contest.