By BRAD KEITH
COMMERCE (February 27, 2016) — Tarleton State overcame most of two large deficits but ran out of gas trying to get back into the game a third time as Texas A&M-Commerce rode its transition offense to a 78-71 upset of the TexAnns at The Field House Saturday.
TAMUC (16-12, 9-7) racked up 21 fast break points to just eight by Tarleton (16-10, 10-6), and withstood 14 fourth-quarter points by Ikpeaku Iwobi by shooting a robust 56 percent on its home floor.
Tarleton fell behind in the first half for the second straight game, and this time never got over the hump. The TexAnns had a seven-game win streak, their longest under second-year head coach Misty Wilson, snapped, and finish the regular season tied alongside Texas Woman’s for third in the Lone Star Conference.
The TexAnns take the No. 4 seed into next week’s LSC Championship tournament in Allen, due to being swept by Texas Woman’s during the regular season. That means a rematch with A&M-Commerce, which tied Cameron for fifth and holds that tie-breaker. The quarterfinal contest will be at 6 p.m. Thursday at Allen Event Center.
Tarleton cut a 12-point deficit to six early in the fourth, but when Ikpeaku Iwobi scored the first six points of the period for Tarleton. The junior forward ended up 22 points and 10 rebounds.
But TAMUC righted its ship and led 72-60 on a hard layup just before the five-minute mark by Khala Riley. Tarleton closed the gap to 75-68 when Morgan Ashmore leaned between two defenders and knocked down a layup, and pulled within 77-71 on a Raven McGrath 3-pointer with 16 seconds left.
Tarleton needed the rally because of three big A&M-Commerce runs. The Lady Lions took advantage of four straight TexAnn turnovers, going wild in transition for an early 17-4 lead. Four points by Tiara Tatum and a 3-pointer by Meagan O’Dell speared a 9-0 answering run by the TexAnns, and the TAMUC lead was 19-13 after one.
Natalie Hessong took over for TAMUC in the second, hitting three 3-pointers to help push the Lions ahead by as many as 14 before leading 38-26 at intermission.
The third – and decisive – run came late in the third quarter and was fueled by penetration. Tarleton pulled on a 3-pointer by backup point guard Nia Jackson before TAMUC hit four free throws, scored on two aggressive drives to the basket then snuck in a backdoor cut away from the ball to get free for another layup and a 58-48 lead entering the fourth.
TAMUC scored the first points of the fourth to make it a 10-0 run and 12-point lead before Iwobi went to work for Tarleton. Shomari Harris scored 13 for the Lions, Hessong finished with 12 and Khala Riley 11. Krystal Pickron hand Gabby Scott helped with nine each and Princess Davis aded eight. Harris and Scott each had five assists.
Breanna Fuller scored 10 points and had seven boards for Tarleton, Ashmore collected eight points, six rebounds and five steals and Bailey Wipff and Tiara Tatum each scored seven. Five of Wipff’s came early in the third quarter to begin the Tarleton surge to within two before the decisive answer by TAMUC.