By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (November 17, 2016) — Lonn Reisman wanted his Tarleton State team to face a tough pre-conference schedule, and on Saturday, he will continue to get his wish.
The No. 10 Texans had to grind their way through an ugly 73-64 win over Colorado-Colorado Springs in the finale of the Whataburger Tipoff Classic last weekend, and now they welcome Concordia-Irvine (Calif.), which won 22 games last season.
The game tips off at 4 p.m. at Wisdom Gym, giving Tarleton fans the opportunity to get accustomed to afternoon start times. Lone Star Conference games on Saturday this season will be played at 2 and 4 p.m.
“It’s time to transition to the afternoon start times and we need to get used to this,” said Reisman, the winningest active coach at any level of college basketball in Texas with 615 victories and counting. “You look at Division I, at the big programs around the country like Indiana and Duke, and they play midweek games in the evening and Saturday games in the afternoon. We need to get our team, our fans, our student groups, everyone accustomed to putting our brand of basketball and especially our brand of home court advantage out there whatever time we play.”
Concordia-Irvine was actually 22-3 and riding an 11-game winning streak before dropping its final three games of PacWest Conference play, but have dropped two of their first three games this season.
“I’m not looking at their current record because it’s so early in the season, you can’t really judge someone based on just three games,” said Reisman. “I believe this is the best of the first three teams we’ve seen.”
Tarleton is likely the best team Concordia-Irvine has seen this season, as well. The Texans tipped off the new year with a 89-59 blowout of Adams State before their tough win over UCCS.
Tarleton was led through two games by Ridell Camidge, who score 16 and 17 to earn all-tournament honors. Camidge was 10-10 from the free throw line, but just 5-16 from the 3-point arc last weekend. He shot 39 percent from the floor, while Tarleton shoots a healthy 45 percent as a team.
Chantz Chambers averages 14 points and 3.5 steals while shooting 53 percent form the floor and was MVP of the Whataburger Tipoff Classic. Center Romond Jenkins averages 9.5 points and 12 rebounds and also made the all-tournament team. Redshirt freshman forward Anthony Davis is averaging 11 points in just 22.5 minutes, and the fifth starter, point guard Deshawn Riddick, is scoring nine points per game.
But Reisman says his team is still coming together, and that their best product is still more than a month away. That’s exactly how the veteran of four South Central Region championships including each of the last two has drawn it up.
“You can always be better, you can always improve, but I do like where we are right now,” said Reisman. “That said, we still have a long way to go. We are still defining everyone’s roles, trying to get better defensively and trying to do a lot of things better. But we’re playing hard, and as long as we’re doing that and continuing to focus on learning and improving every day then you will see us steadily become a better basketball team over the next couple months.”
Concordia-Irvine did win its last time out, 75-67 over Cal State-Los Angeles. Brian Chambers came off the bench for 14 points to lead Concordia, which had a balanced scoring effort including 13 by Justin Davis, 12 from Mike Mellenger and 11 by Tad Dufelmeier.
Concordia has also lost to Chico State (Calif.), 65-61, and Cal State-San Marcos, 78-65. The Eagles allowed CS-San Marcos to shoot 60.5 percent from the field including 70 percent (7-10) from the arc. Field goal percentage defense was also a problem in its other loss, as Chico State shot 48 percent.
Justin Davis averages 10.3 points to lead Concordia. Chambers averages 9.7 and Tad Dufelmeier nine.
“They are very balanced, and you can tell looking at them on film they are well coached and well drilled,” said Reisman. “They have very fundamental players who all know their roles. I’m excited to see a team this good this early.”
Division II basketball has a more free-flowing style to it on the west coast, Reisman says.
“It’s a different style than we are used to seeing in the Lone Star Conference and in our region,” he says. “They want to get up and down the floor and score points, and they are balanced, which means we have to guard everyone. This will be a very big test for us.”
Tarleton follows the Saturday matinee with its annual Thanksgiving Classic next Friday and Saturday, November 25-26. The Texans host Colorado State-Pueblo and Emmanuel College at 7 p.m. each day. The fourth team in the classic is Texas A&M-Commerce.