By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (December 31, 2016) — No. 11 Tarleton State brings an eight-game win streak back from Christmas break and puts it on the line in a New Year’s Eve battle with Great American Conference power Ouachita Baptist (Ark.).
The fourth meeting between the teams tips off at 4 p.m. Saturday at Wisdom Gym, where the Texans defeated OBU last season, 88-71.
“It’s a good team that almost won their conference last year. It’s another Division II opponent that counts as a regional game for us, and that always makes it an important game,” said Tarleton head coach Lonn Reisman. “Everything counts in the formula, so when you’re trying to go the places we are, they all matter.”
Indeed. By finishing above .500 last season – OBU was 19-13 – the Tigers gave Tarleton’s strength of schedule a nice bump. It’s possible that will happen again as OBU tries to move up in the GAC standings, where they are currently in a three-way tie for sixth – following just four league games – after finishing third just one game out of a tie for the league title last season.
OBU has a quality win at Texas A&M-Kingsville, 83-80, and took UT-Permian Basin to overtime before falling, 94-88. Those are the only Lone Star Conference teams the Tigers have seen, while they have also beat UT-Tyler, Oklahoma Baptist and Southeastern Oklahoma State and lost to Southern Nazarene and, most recently, 85-70 at East Central.
OBU, which last played on December 3, scores 75 points per game and is as balanced as it gets offensively. Lakee Westbrook averages 17.6 points, Justin McCleary 14 and Carven Holcombe 10.7. Also close to double figures is Isaiah Harper at 9.4. Holcombe leads the team with 5.9 rebounds per game, while McCleary is bout the top outside shooter with 17 3-pointers and guard defender with an average of 2.4 steals. Westbrook dishes three assists per game.
Make no mistake, Tarleton is a heavy favorite, as the Texans come into the contest fifth in the nation in both field goal percentage defense (37.4) and scoring defense (62.6) and 14th in score margin (17.3). They are also 24th in rebound margin (7.3) and 32nd in offensive rebounds (13.67).
Tarleton has scored 80 or more points in four straight games. Never have the Texans reached 80 in more than seven consecutive contests.
Romond Jenkins is trying to become the first Texan since Eric Williams in 2008-09 to average a double-double for an entire season. Jenkins, the reigning LSC Defensive Player of the Week, averages 12.8 points and 11.7 boards, which is sixth in the nation in rebounding.
Ridell Camidge, the last player to be named LSC Offensive Player of the Week before the Christmas break, leads Tarleton in scoring at 15.6 points per game. The junior guard who transferred from Division I UNC-Charlotte shoots 42 percent including 38 percent from the arc and is a 92 percent shooter from the foul stripe.
Deshawn Riddick averages 11.4 points and Chantz Chambers 10.3 for the Texans, while redshirt freshmen Anthony Davis and Josh Hawley score 9.8 and 9.3, respectively.
Tarleton has activated true freshman guard Brandon Willis from Baltimore. Willis did not play before Christmas but will be available against OBU.
Tarleton returns to LSC action next week, visiting No. 7 Angelo State on Thursday and traveling to A&M-Kingsville on Saturday.