By BRAD KEITH
(January 18, 2017) — A lot has to go right to knock off a top 10 team on the road.
One of them is hitting free throws.
Tarleton State (11-6, 5-4) knocked down 16 of 20 attempts from the foul stripe Thursday evening, none bigger than the two put down by McKinley Bostad to break a tie with 12 seconds remaining in a 66-64 Tarleton State win at No. 8 West Texas A&M (15-2, 7-2) Thursday evening.
The TexAnns won for the seventh time in eight games and handed WTAMU its first loss this season at the First United Bank Center in Canyon, a city where Tarleton won for just the third time in 22 trips. It was also the second loss in three games overall for the Lady Buffs, who were xx-0 before losing at Angelo State last week.
Tarleton continues to climb the Lone Star Conference standings, where they are now fifth, 2.5 games behind new sole leader A&M-Commerce. The TexAnns lost January 9 at TAMUC, their only defeat since one month prior on December 9. TAMUC is one game ahead of the Lady Buffs and visit Canyon on Saturday.
WTAMU clawed back from a 16-point first half deficit, cutting it to 42-35 by halftime and to 58-55 by the end of third before taking a 59-58 lead early in the fourth. It was the first Lady Buff lead since the first quarter, and was earned by scoring the first four points of the final stanza, the lowest scoring of the night with the teams combining for just 17 points, only eight by the TexAnns. The longtime rivals combined for 77 points before halftime and just 53 after the break.
Mackeinzie Hailey fought through foul trouble to score 19 points and McKinley Bostad added 14 for Tarleton. Tiara Tatum netted 10 as the TexAnns shot 46.5 percent on the road and, most important, 80 percent from the stripe, where the Buffs were 8-13 to make the difference.
WTAMU was paced by Lexy Hightower and her 10-16 shooting that incudled 5-7 from 3. She scored 26 points but also turned the ball over a team-high five times. Madison Parker and Tiana Parker were efficient, going 5-7 and 5-9 from the floor. Tiana Parker scored 13 points while Tiana Parker scored 11 and grabbed seven boards. Deleyah Harris collected nine points and 10 rebounds.
The Lady Buffs out-rebounded Tarleton 35-21, but also had 27 turnvoers, 10 more than the TexAnns, who used a 25-17 margin in points set up by turnovers to offset a 32-20 deficit in paint scoring. The Lady Buffs had 18 turnovers by halftime before the slower-paced second half.
Hailey made it 64-64 with a layup after collecting a long offensive rebound that bounced right to her, and the TexAnns immediately called timeout with 42 seconds remaining. Cece Wooten missed on a jumper for WTAMU, and Madison Parker made the biggest error of the game, fouling Bostad while going for the rebound. That allowed Tarleton to put the ball in the hands of its most consistent shooter at the foul stripe without even being contested coming up the court. The Division I transfer who began her career at Arkansas then played at Texa State delivered, as she has throughout flurry of success Tarleton has enjoyed since mid-December.
The TexAnns look to stay hot on Saturday at UT-Permian Basin in Odessa. Tipoff at the Falcon Dome is at 2 p.m.
Tarleton appeared ready to run away as the TexAnns scored 21 consecutive points to build a 36-20 lead in the first half. The TexAnns finished the first quarter with 11 straight to lead 26-15 before pouring in the initial 10 points of the second quarter. Hailey scored eight in the run, four on both sides of the quarter break.
But WTAMU was not about to come off its 16-game home winning streak dating back to December 13, 2016 so easily. Two triples and a deuce gave Hightower the next eight by herself to keep the Lady Buffs treading water, and they pulled as close as six before trailing by seven at the break.
Hailey began the scoring in the third before Hightower scored five straight and Tiana Parker made it a 7-0 run, tying it 44-44. Kylie Collins buried a Tarleton 3, and the TexAnns were ahead one to four points the rest of the period.
Almost a minute and a half went by before Harris began he fourth quarter scoring for WTAMU, which took a 59-58 lead on a basket by, who else, Hightower.
But Bostad was once again the best player down the stretch, putting Tarleton on top three times. She made it 60-59, then followed Sydney Walton’s go-ahead shot for WT with another of her own for a 62-61 margin. Hightower hit one of two free throws and Madison Parker finished the WT scoring with a layup before Hailey converted the lucky-bounce rebound for one last tie.
Bostad needed no lucky bounce for her heroics. They seem to happen habitually for crunch-time star of a TexAnn team that no longer resembles a loser of five out of nine games to begin the season.