STEPHENVILLE – Though unofficial, Tarleton opened the 2021-22 season in desired fashion – inside the winner’s circle in front of a Wisdom Gym crowd.
The Texans knocked off Central Christian College (Kan.) 73-50 on Monday in an exhibition affair in front of an announced crowd of 729 spectators.
The game marked Wisdom Gym’s return to full capacity and the first of 31 home basketball games split between the men’s and women’s programs. And Tarleton ensured its audience would go home happy from the opening horn.
The Texans never trailed throughout the evening, entered the intermission on a 14-3 run to double up the Tigers 38-19 and later led by as many as 29 points at 50-21 early in the second half.
Tarleton strengthened its claim to possessing one of the nation’s top pressure defenses in its second year under head coach Billy Gillispie.
Central Christian, which competes at the NAIA level as a member of the Sooner Athletic Conference, turned the ball over 25 times. It was the eighth game in which Tarleton forced 20-plus turnovers in the Gillispie era.
The Texans finished with 14 steals, four of which came from senior Jonathan Jackson Jr., who also led Tarleton in scoring with 13 points on 6-11 shooting off the bench. Guards Shamir Bogues, Shakur Daniel and Montre Gipson each swiped the ball away twice.
Tarleton held Central Christian to 38.6 percent shooting (17-44) from the field and allowed just 10 made field goals inside the arc. The program has now held opponents to 50-or-fewer points in nine of its 21 games under Gillispie.
On the other side of the court, the Texans threw zone and high-low offensive looks at the Tigers with success. Tarleton connected on 22-38 attempts (57.9 percent) inside the arc and tallied 34 points in the paint.
Daniel and position-mates Javontae Hopkins and Tahj Small joined Jackson Jr. in scoring in double figures. Daniel lived up to his billing as Tarleton’s “glue guy,” delivering 12 points and leading the team in rebounds (eight) and assists (six). The 6-6 senior went 10-13 at the foul line. Small finished with 11 points on 4-5 shooting while Hopkins added 10 – seven of which came in the contest’s first five minutes. Gipson was Tarleton’s top scorer off the bench with nine points.
Tarleton scored the game’s first six points and led 13-7 at the 14:40 mark of the first half. The Texans then extended their advantage to 23-12 with eight minutes remaining in the period following a cold spell that saw the team go nearly five minutes without a field goal. Jackson Jr. earned his first points of the evening via a finish at the rim off an assist from Small, who knocked down a floater on Tarleton’s next offensive possession.
Central Christian trimmed the Texans’ edge to 24-16 with 4:37 remaining in the half but it was as close as the visitors would crawl within Tarleton the rest of the way. Daniel converted an and-one on a contested finish at the rim off a steal from Jackson Jr. with 1:46 remaining in the frame to kickstart the Texans’ decisive run. Tarleton closed the half by scoring 11 of the frame’s final 12 points, punctuated by an ally-oop from Gipson to Jackson and subsequent fast break flush by Small :33 seconds to go, to swell a 28-18 lead into a 19-point advantage.
Tarleton then opened the second half on a 12-2 run to assume their its largest advantage on the scoreboard with 16:17 to go. Central Christian never got within 20 points of the Texans the rest of the way even as Tarleton deployed portions of its bench.
Five of Tarleton’s 12 newcomers made their collegiate debuts. Freshman Noah McDavid earned the start at guard and finished with four rebounds and two points. Fellow freshman Luke Winslow and sophomore Kylon Owens, who transferred to Tarleton from Blinn College, also earned their first collegiate points. Garrett Levesque also earned a pair of shifts off the bench in the second half.
Monday’s matchup was Tarleton’s final tune-up before it commences the regular season in earnest. The Texans open the season on Nov. 9 against Stanford in Palo Alto. The game kicks off arguably the most challenging opening month of a season any D1 program will face. Including the game at Stanford, six of Tarleton’s first seven games are on the road. Tarleton draws three programs ranked in the top-10 of the Preseason Associated Press Top 25 in No. 3 Kansas (Nov. 12), No. 6 Michigan (Nov. 24) and No. 1 Gonzaga (Nov. 29). Sandwiched in between the games are tilts at Wichita State on Nov. 16 and North Dakota State on Nov. 22.
The Texans regular season home-opener is Nov. 19 vs. Paul Quinn.