STEPHENVILLE – When Tarleton and Midwestern meet, you can throw out the records. It’s going to come down to the final possessions and tonight was no different.
With Tarleton moving to the NCAA Division I ranks next season, Thursday was the final regular season meeting for one of the most storied rivalries in all of Division II and the Texans closed it out in style. Tarleton downed the Mustangs 70-63 in front of 1,527 fans in Wisdom Gym to give the Texans eight straight victories in the series – the longest streak by either team in the rivalry.
The Texans improve to 13-8 overall and 9-6 in the Lone Star Conference as they continue to chance a No. 4 seed in the standings, which would guarantee a first-round bye in the conference tournament. The Texans entered the night only two games out of the fourth spot. Midwestern State falls to an uncharacteristic 4-17 overall and 4-11 in the conference.
Photos by DAVID SWEARINGEN
Midwestern State took the first punch between the two historic heavyweights as the Mustangs led 20-6 in the first ten minutes of play as Tarleton started 1-15 from the floor. As always, the game was far from over between these two. The Texans strung together a game-turning 28-6 run to close the half with stretches of 7-0, 9-0 and another 9-0 push in the final four minutes to take a 34-26 lead into halftime. While the Texans might’ve shot just 12 percent to start the game, the finished shooting 43 percent and held the Mustangs to 37 percent from the floor.
The ones who have never experienced the rivalry before this season left their mark on the matchup with their one chance. Zach Naylor scored 11 of his career-high 16 points in the second half while Isaiah Range added 11 points and Devin Bethely posted 10 points – all in their first games against the Mustangs.
Tarleton needed all the contributions in the second half as both teams traded buckets to the tune of a 45-44 advantage with 13 minutes to go. The Texans followed with an 11-0 run behind seven straight points from Naylor for a 12-point lead, 56-44, which was the largest lead for the Texans.
The lead was enough to guide the Texans to the finish line as the margin never dropped below four points in the final five minutes en route to the win.
Veteran experience from Randall Broddie, Josh Hawley and Clashon Gaffney also paid off for the Texans. Broddie posted 13 points, 5 rebounds and a game-high 3 steals while Hawley and Gaffney narrowly missed double-doubles. Gaffney recorded nine points, 12 rebounds and a career-high six blocks and Hawley posted nine points and 10 boards.
The Texans will look to make it three straight wins as they host Cameron on Saturday, Feb. 8 at 4 p.m. in Wisdom Gym.