STEPHENVILLE – Tarleton Men’s Basketball picked up its signature win of its in inaugural Division I season by defeating three-time defending WAC champion New Mexico State 64-55 in Wisdom Gym.
A night after falling by 27 points in the series opener, the Texans put the loss behind them and did so in a big way to earn the split. The Texans led the Aggies from start to finish and were up by double digits for much of the game.
“Our guys were tuned in – not that they weren’t last night, we tried hard – we just didn’t get anything done effectively on Friday,” said head coach Billy Gillispie. “It’s not surprising but it’s amazing to me what these guys do. I’m so proud of these guys. I’m always proud of their effort, I don’t always like the results, but I’m proud of their effort. They played for Tarleton tonight, they played for each other and they played with a lot of heart.”
Montre Gipson, Tarleton’s leading scorer on the season, stepped up when the team needed him most, pouring in a game-high 19 points – including 12 in the second half – to go with five rebounds and a game-high five assists while playing all 40 minutes with zero turnovers. It’s the seventh time Gipson has played all 40 minutes and second game where he did so with zero turnovers, the other was in a road victory over Utah Valley for Tarleton’s first WAC win. Konstantin Dotsenko had his shooting touch all night, pouring in 17 points and grabbing five rebounds in all 40 minutes as well.
The Texan defense was the story on Saturday. A day after New Mexico State shot 58 percent and drained 13-22 3-pointers (59 percent), the Texans held the Aggies to just 32 percent from the floor and only 9-33 from behind the arc (27 percent). They also forced the Aggies into 14 turnovers and committed just seven turnovers of their own.
Shamir Bogues, a true freshman for the Texans, got the assignment to guard preseason WAC Player of the Year Jabari Rice for much of the weekend, as he came in averaging 14.7 points. Bogues, along with the rest of the Texan defense, limited Rice to six points on 2-11 shooting on Saturday and a combined 11 points on 4-17 shooting for the weekend. Bogues came away with a game-high four steals along with seven points and now leads the WAC with 35 steals on the season.
The Texans opened the game on a 16-4 run and got scoring contributions from four different Texans during the stretch. Shakur Daniel, who had nine points and three assists, scored or assisted on nine of the points during the fast start. The ball movement was a theme throughout, with a 2-1 assist-to-turnover ratio that led to the Texans shooting 50 percent from the floor. Of the seven Texans that played tonight, none of them had more than one turnover.
“It’s amazing to me. I think last night we had 13 or 14 turnovers, but only seven turnovers tonight – we’ve done that several times now this season,” said Gillispie. “Shakur Daniel never gets enough credit for what he does with the ball. He plays 40 minutes almost every single night. Same with Tre Gipson. Neither guy hardly ever turns the ball over and that’s huge for our offense. They amaze me. When you only have seven turnovers, you’re going to have a chance to win a lot of games.”
Leading 27-16 after a three-point play from Freddy Hicks with 4:32 left in the first half, New Mexico State went on a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to four, its closest margin since the opening minute of the game. Dotsenko scored seven points in the final three minutes as part of a 9-2 Texan run to close the half and led 36-25 at the break.
“I think Konstantin took a big step forward tonight, understanding that there’s other parts of the game other than shooting,” Gillispie added. “He can really shoot it and is a guy that they have to guard. He has this ability to make baskets. I don’t care what level it’s at, if you can make baskets, you’re going to get a chance to play.”
Dostsenko’s touch continued to start the second half as his third 3-pointer of the game gave Tarleton its largest lead at 41-27 with 18 minutes left in the contest. The Aggies were within six once again with 8:20 on the clock but the Texans had another answer, as Hicks’ pull-up jumper started a 9-2 run to go back up by 13 with four minutes to go and seal the victory at the free-throw line.
Hicks went up against the Aggies’ upperclassmen forwards three and four inches taller than him all night, but the true freshman held his own, posting eight points and grabbing a team-high seven rebounds. He also forced New Mexico State’s leading rebounder in Johnny McCants to foul out late in the game while limiting the redshirt senior to 11 points after dropping a game-high 18 points on Friday.
The 55 points scored by New Mexico State was the second-lowest scoring output of the season for the Aggies and only the second time it was held under 60 points after coming in averaging 72.1 points per contest.
Tarleton will have its final series of the regular season as they travel south to Edinburg to take on UTRGV on March 5-6.