By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (February 3, 2016) — At halftime, blaring over the public address system at Wisdom Gym were the familiar lyrics, “We’re not gonna take it, anymore.”
Fitting. Because Tarleton was tired of taking defeats at the hand of arch-rival Midwestern State at home.
The Lone Star Conference powers split their regular season meetings for the third straight season after Tarleton (16-5, 5-3) defeated No. 11 Midwestern (16-4, 5-3) in a 66-65 thriller Wednesday night, and it couldn’t have ended more dramatically.
Michael Hardge sprinted down the court and knocked down the game-winning transition layup just beyond the outstretched arm of Trevor Fuller – he had already blocked four shots and altered several others – with three seconds remaining.
Fuller had dunked the ball for a 65-64 Midwestern lead with eight seconds remaining, but while Midwestern appeared to hesitate, likely expecting a Tarleton timeout, Hardge took off sprinting, taking just more than four seconds to give the Texans the last of 13 lead changes.
“No, I never thought about calling timeout, especially not after seeing us get the ball in quickly and cleanly and how fast Mike was getting down the floor,” said Tarleton head coach Lonn Reisman. “I saw that we had a chance to beat the them to the rim, and that’s what we wanted.”
And got. For the win. To join a four-way dead heat at the top of the wild and deep LSC.
Mike Hardge and Deshawn Riddick discuss the win with Casey Hogan of Tarleton Sports Network:
Jordan Stevens did get off a potential game-winning 3-pointer from just right of the top of the key at the buzzer, but it bounced off the rim and away. The result – Tarleton, Midwestern, West Texas A&M and Cameron, who Tarleton visits at 4 p.m. Saturday, each have three losses in league play. Angelo State and Texas A&M-Commerce are on their heels with four LSC losses.
Before Tarleton could even think about winning Wednesday, the Texans had to overcome a 15-0 run that gave Midwestern a 55-48 lead. The Mustangs grabbed a 49-48 lead on a bucket in the paint by Khapri Alston before back-to-back 3-pointers by Jordan Stevens and Sheldon Hagigal for a seven-point advantage.
But Tarleton answered right back with four from EJ Reed and Deshawn Riddick to jumpstart a 10-2 Tarleton run that culminated in a Chantz Chambers layup for a 59-58 lead with 2:23 left.
But the back and forth fun was just starting.
Alston gave Midwestern the lead twice more, first at 59-58 before Reed buried a triple to put Tarleton back in front, then with a layup and 63-61 edge with 38 seconds left.
But Deshawn Riddick was fouled while shooting a left corner 3-pointer from just in front of the Tarleton bench and knocked down all three free throws for a 64-63 Tarleton lead, setting up the game-ending fireworks by Fuller and Hardge in the ninth straight meeting between the rivals to be determined by six points or less.
Tarleton led 34-27 at intermission. Midwestern cut a eight point Tarleton lead to four just before the half, but Riddick buried a buzzer-beater from outside the arc in the right wing to restore momentum heading into the break.
Tarleton handed Midwestern its third straight loss for the first time since December of 2008. The Texans also avoided their first three-game LSC losing streak in three years.
Lonn Reisman’s post game interview on Tarleton Sports Network:
Alston led everyone with 23 points and 10 rebounds, his ninth double-double, tying Reed for the conference lead. Stevens scored 12 and Bretson McNeal 11.
Reed led Tarleton with 15 points and nine boards, while Riddick scored 11 and Romond Jenkins had eight points and 10 boards.
Tarleton entered the game hitting just 29 percent from the arc for the season and presumed to go 8-17 for 47 percent. MSU was 5-16 from the arc for just 31.3 percent. Tareton won a tight rebounding battle, 36-34, and the teams combined for just 17 turnovers including only seven by the Texans.
Midwestern returns home to face Texas A&M-Commerce at 6 p.m. Saturday. A&M-Commerce knocked off Cameron Wednesday, contributing to the chaos at the top of the LSC.