By BRAD KEITH
(November 30, 2017) – Forgive Deshawn Riddick if he looks a little lost. When he woke up this morning he must have felt as if he had slept through a month or two.
Could it really be MSU day already?
Yes, the Mustangs are waiting even though it’s still November. Such is life in the growing Lone Star Conference, which last year began conference games in December and has had seasons in which the Texans haven’t played a conference contest until January.
“It’s a lot sooner than we are used, too, but that just is what it is,” says Riddick of getting ready for a conference rivalry showdown much sooner than in the past. “We just have to be ready for all conference games, because that’s always the goal for us is to win our conference. There is always a little something extra when it’s Midwestern though just because we seem to be right there together every year.”
Until last year, when injuries and eligibility issues hurt the Mustangs, and the loss of so much experience after consecutive regional titles stung the Texans. Tarleton reached the regional tournament only to fall in overtime in the first round. MSU, meanwhile, was back home in Wichita Falls wondering what could have been if they had everyone they expected in their lineup.
Many of those players are back for the Mustangs and coach Nelson Haggerty, but that hasn’t made the road any easier. Like the Texans (3-2), MSU has proven long on talent but short on chemistry and experience through the initial stages of the season.
Riddick believes they will have it together, however, when the rivals collide about 7:30 p.m., following a 5:30 women’s contest at D.L. Ligon Coliseum.
“They’re going to be ready for us. I don’t know everything they have gone through until this point, but I know they’re a very athletic team and they want to get up and down the court. They’re going to be ready for sure, but we will be, too.”
Riddick and fellow senior Nosa Ebomwonyi acutally came to Stephenville right when the frequency of Tarleton-MSU games tapered to just the prescheduled two meetings each season, with the Texans enjoying a 4-2 edge in those six meetings including wins in the last three.
Prior to their freshman season in 2014-15, the Texans and Mustangs four times from January to March to wrap the 2013-14 season, three in 2012-13, three in 2011-12 and four each in 2010-11 and 2009-10. Conference rivals are all meeting for the third time in conference tournaments, with fourth meetings coming only when they meet in the South Central Region Championship tournament.
Tarleton’s three-game win streak over MSU has evened the all-time series at 27 wins each. That includes a dozen wins each going back to the 2009-10 season, the first year they met in the regional.
“I know it’s a series that has gone back a long time and it seems like no one ever knows what will happen when we’re playing each other,” said Riddick. “As a player I like playing Midwestern because whether the game is here or there it’s always a great environment.”
A few things on the series and more on Deshawn Riddick:
Series fast facts:
Head-to-head: Tarleton 27, Midwestern 27
Last meeting Tarleton 77-72 at MSU on Jan. 28, 2017
Streak – Tarleton 3 straight W
In Wichita Falls – Midwestern 13, Tarleton 12
Tarleton head coach Lonn Reisman (30th year) – 27-27
Midwestern head coach Nelson Haggerty (7th year) – 7-9
Player Spotlight: Deshawn Riddick
On being a leader as a senior: “Nosa (Ebomwonyi) and I are just trying set the right example for these guys so they know how you have to do it in practice every day, not just in games. We have so many new players this year, there are a lot of guys who don’t really know what coach expects or what it takes to be successful in this league.
On Midwestern: I know it’s a series that has gone back a long time and it seems like no one ever knows what will appen when we’re playing each other. As a player I like playing Midwestern because whether the game is here or there it’s always a great environment.”
On the Lone Star Conference this season: It’s hard to really tell too much about anyone right now because conference play is starting so soon and we haven’t really played that many games yet. But we know it’s always crazy in our conference. There are a lot of good teams, so you have to be on your ‘A’ game every night.k
What has Tarleton come to mean to you: “I love Tarleton, I know I definitely made the right choice when I chose to come here and I’ve been able to represent Tarleton at two Elite Eights and we’ve made the regional every year. Anywhere we go on campus we see the support and the love they have for our team and that means a lot. Tarleton has been great for me.”
Riddick’s career by the numbers is below: