By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (January 30, 2016) — Jeremy Jones scored 24 points, but it was a 9-11 performance at the foul stripe by center Bryant Crowder and untimely misses from the line by Tarleton State that made the difference as Texas A&M-Commerce (14-6, 3-4) defeated the No. 22 Texans (15-5, 4-3) at Wisdom Gym for the first time since 2008 Saturday, 67-65.
Tarleton rallied back from a 14-point halftime deficit to take the lead on three occasions, the last on a left corner 3-pointer by Deshawn Riddick that made it 65-62 with 1:13 remaining.
But TAMUC answered with a pair of free throws by Jones and two more from Crowder, who had 15 points and seven rebounds to grab the lead for good in the Lone Star Conference battle.
EJ Reed hit one of two free throws to make it a one-point game with eight seconds left, and Tarleton fouled immediately when the Lions got the rebound. Jones made just one of two from the stripe with 5.19 seconds remaining, but after Tarleton rebounded the miss on the second attempt and got the ball to point guard Mike Hardge, Anthony Adams stole it away and ran off the final seconds.
It was the third steal by Adams, who also had seven points and five rebounds despite being the smallest player on the court.
Reed was the best player on the court for much of the second half, scoring 13 after the break and 21 for the game. No other starters so much as sniffed double digits, though Xavier Smith and Riddick came off the bench to score 13 and 10, respectively. Smith also had seven boards and blocked two shots.
Tarleton was 14-21 from the free throw line, and the seven misses couldn’t come at worse times, especially the final miss by Reed. Tarleton split two attempts on three straight trips to the line midway through the second half, and also missed a number of layups under the basket.
“We have to be decide if we’re going to be serious enough in walk-throughs, serious enough when we stretch and serious enough when we take the court,” said veteran Tarleton head coach Lonn Reisman. “That’s how you make sure you don’t miss layups and free throws in games is by getting focused. You can’t just turn on being serious when the game is on the line, you have to turn it on in practice and make it a habit.”
Tarleton dominated much of the second half to erase the big deficit. The Texans shot 48 percent after the intermission while limiting A&M-Commerce to just 29 percent, and used a 15-4 run – including seven points by Reed – to turn a 45-35 deficit into a 50-49 lead following two foul shots by Hardge.
Chantz Chambers was also effective off the bench for the Texans with seven points, six assists and six rebounds.
Tarleton started sluggish and fell behind 11-2 right off the bat thanks to a couple 3-pointers by Jones and two buckets in the paint by Crowder.
The Texans settled down and pulled within four before A&M-Commerce stretched it out to 37-25 at intermission. Jones had 15 and Crwowder eight at halftime for the Lions while Reed scored eight and Smith came off the bench for seven to lead Tarleton. The Lions shot 54 percent before the break, while the Texans shot just 32 percent.
Tarleton did not have Malcolm Hamilton, who averages 11 points and six boards per game. The senior guard/forward was suspended one game by the Lone Star Conference after picking up his third technical of the season at West Texas A&M last Saturday, but head coach Lonn Reisman added a second game to the punishment after Reed sat out Wednesday in a 113-50 non-conference victory over Southwestern Adventist.
Rebounding won’t be easy for Tarleton, which hosts arch-rival Midwestern State at 7 p.m. Wednesday following a 5 p.m. women’s contest.