Texans await at-large bid to South Central Region tourney
By BRAD KEITH
ALLEN (March 4, 2016) — Angelo State overcame a 16-2 Tarleton run that wiped out a 13-point Ram lead in the second half, outscoring the Texans 14-5 the rest of the way to win 81-73 and advance to the final of the Lone Star Conference Championship for the second straight year.
Tarleton was behind 65-53 before a blitzkrieg attack brought them back. EJ Reed hit three second-half 3-pointers and scored 11 of his 13 after halftime, but it was Romond Jenkins that had the dunk to cut it to a one-point game and Nosa Ebomwonyi who had the go-ahead layup to make it 68-67 Tarleton with 3:53 remaining.
But Tre Bennett, who led all scorers with 19, hit a 3-pointer to end the run and give ASU back the advantage. The last 3-pointer by Reed put Tarleton right back on top before a pair of free throws by Tre Bennett made it 72-71 Rams.
Reed finally cooled off missing a jumper that was rebounded by Gudul. Reed then committed a foul that allowed Stedman Allen to hit two free throws. Bennett was 1-2 agh the line with 1:09 remaining. Reed scored his final points on an aggressive runner 19 seconds later, but Tarleton would never lead again.
Bennett made the biggest play of the game when he was bumped while landing after a 3-point launch from the right wing with 23 seconds left. He buried all three free throws, and when Deshawn Riddick missed at the other end, Talreton was forced to foul.
Jenkins scored 16 points and collected 16 rebounds, his second double-double in as many days for Tarleton. Michael Hardge scored 11 but was just 2-12 from the floor. Malcolm Hamilton made it five in double figurers with 10.
Omari Gudul was 6-9 from the floor and scored 14 while collecting six boards for ASU. Quay King scored 13. Gudul and Prince Foster, who scored nine, each dealt six assists.
It was the 74th meeting between the longtime rivals but their first in the conference tournament. Tarleton edged ASU, 68-66, in the South Central Region final last season after they split their regular season meetings. They split again in the regular season this year, Tarleton winning 85-67 in Stephenville and ASU coming from behind for an 87-86 double-overtime victory in San Angelo.
The big Tarleton run seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. In actuality it covered 3:08, turning a 65-52 deficit into a lead. But first 12 minutes of the second half belonged to ASU, as the Rams outscored the Texans 35-22 over that stretch to build the big lead.
Penetration was the biggest problem for Tarleton defensively, as ASU drove the paint and drew fouls, outscoring Tarleton by 17 from the foul stripe. The Rams were 26-32 from there, the Texans 9-17.
Tarleton started slow for the second straight day. Two Bennett 3-pointers and a highlight-reel right-handed hook jam by little-used reserve Thomas Tshikaya highlighted a 9-0 run for a 13-6 ASU lead.
Chambers gave Tarleton a boost of energy off the bench, and Jenkins went 6-6 from the floor in the opening half. Chambers scored to make it a one-point game before dishing out an assist to set up a Riddick 3-pointer for a 24-22 Tarleton lead. The teams traded field goals from there, with Jenkins giving the Texans a two-point edge with 16 seconds left before DeVonte’ Pratt drove for a layup to end the half in a 30-30 tie.
Talreton has allowed more than 80 points in regulation only once more this season in an 87-82 home own over West Texas A&M. Tarleton fell to 19-3 when scoring more than 70 points. The Texans also lost with only 11 turnovers, only the second time they have been defeated with less than 15. ASU took even better care of the ball, giving it away only nine times.
Tarleton shot better than 45 percent in each of its final four regular season games, all wins. The Texans were below that mark in a rugged 68-60 opening-round win against Texas A&M-Commerce Thursday, and hit 42 percent against ASU. The Rams shot 45 percent, the most by any Tarleton opponent since beginning what ended as a five-game streak.
It’s the second straight year Tarleton has fallen in the semifinal round of the LSC Championship. The won the tournament in 2013 and 2014, the last of five straight finals appearances.
Note: The NCAA Selection Show is 9 p.m. Sunday on NCAA.com and will reveal both women’s and men’s championship fields.