By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (February 20, 2016) — Tarleton State built a 25-point lead then held on for dear life as West Texas A&M’s incredulous late comeback fell just short and the Texans held on, 87-82, on senior night at Wisdom Gym Saturday.
Tarleton (19-7, 8-5) led 72-47 with 6:20 remaining before everything that had gone so well all night went totally wrong the rest of the way.
West Texas A&M (20-9, 8-5) scored 35 points over the final six minutes and got as close as 84-80 before Michael Hardge made three of his final four free throws to finish off a win in his final home game that lifts Tarleton into a four-way tie for second in the Lone Star Conference.
Turnovers and, more than anything, fouls, made for a long second half with the final six minutes seeming to drag on for eternity. The teams combined to draw 60 foul calls and 76 total free throws, 68 of them coming after halftime. Tarleton was called for three fouls within 10 seconds of clock time just before the one-minute mark and ended with 31 personal fouls to 29 for WTAMU.
The Texans were 23-37 from the stripe, just 62 percent, while the Buffs were 31-39, a strong 80 percent, helping WTAMU get back into the game. The Buffs also outscored Tarleton 12-3 from the arc in the second half.
But the Tarleton lead was too much to overcome. The Texans shot 55 percent, remaining unbeaten when that number is 45 or better. They improved to 17-2 when scoring more than 70 points, with both losses coming in overtime games.
Michael Hardge led the way with 17 points. He also dealt three assists, passing Chuck Guy – who he backed up as a freshman and sophomore – for fourth all-time at Tarleton. The likely future Tarleton Athletics Hall of Fame inductee will finish his career with a record of 67-6.
Hardge discusses the win and senior night here:
EJ Reed scored 17 and collected six boards for Tarleton, Romond Jenkins netted a career high 13 while grabbing nine rebounds, just missing out on his first career double-double. Malcolm Hamilton contributed 11. Like Hardge, Hamilton had three steals and three assists.
Reed talks about the victory on his senior night here:
West Texas A&M was led by David Chavlovich with 19 points, just six in the second half. Jerrod Walton added 16 while Joseph Price and Eric Golightly, Jr. each netted 11.
Tarleton outscored the Buffs 17-10 over the final 9:31 of the first half, taking a 34-28 lead into intermission. It was 42-33 early in the second half before a massive 30-14 Tarleton surge seemed to put the game away. Hardge scored 14 after halftime for Tarleton, while Walton netted 12 in the second half for WTAMU.
The Texans are scheduled to conclude their regular season with a tough road trip to Texas A&M-Commerce next Saturday. TAMUC is locked into sixth place in the tough LSC.
Tarleton is tied with WTAMU, Cameron and Angelo State with Midwestern State holding a one-game advantage at the top.