STEPHENVILLE – A return to Wisdom Gym proved to be the necessary antidote for Tarleton following a grueling three-game road trip to open the 2021-22 season.
The Texans forced 20 turnovers and held Paul Quinn to 26 percent shooting to secure a 69-42 victory – their first of the season – over the Tigers on Friday.
The 42 points allowed were the second-fewest in a game by Tarleton since head coach Billy Gillispie took the reins in 2020. In turning Paul Quinn over 20 times, the Texans have now forced 20-or-more giveaways eight times in 24 games in the Gillispie era.
With the win, Tarleton is now 12-3 in home-openers since 2007 and 7-3 in Wisdom Gym under Gillispie. The Texans also secured their 200th home victory in the last 15 seasons with the result.
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for Tarleton to boost its overall record to 1-3. The game counted as an exhibition affair for Paul Quinn, which competes at the NAIA level and is 3-0 on the season.
Tahj Small scored a season and game-high 16 points on 6-10 shooting to pace the Texans’ offense in both halves.Freddy Hicks (14 points) and Montre Gipson (11 points) joined Small in double figures. Hicks’ scoring total was a season high while Gipson has eclipsed the 10-point threshold in every game for Tarleton this season. All 11 of Gipson’s points came in the first half.
Collectively, Tarleton shot a season-best 47 percent (25-53) from the field. The Texans also notched single-game highs in rebounds (40) and assists (17).
Small and Hicks combined for 16 of Tarleton’s boards, as they finished with eight apiece. Three players – Gipson, Shakur Daniel and Javontae Hopkins – each dished out three dimes.
Hopkins also recorded two steals and drew as many charges in the first half to fuel Tarleton’s stout defensive effort.
A fast breaks slam by Shamir Bogues (8 points) less than three minutes into the ballgame staked Tarleton to a 6-0 lead and set the tone for the remainder of the evening. Paul Quinn never led in the contest and turned it over four times before the first media timeout
Hicks drained a midrange jumper from the top of the key at the 9:30 mark of the half to give the Texans’ their first double-digit lead at 9:30. Tarleton ripped off an 11-0 scoring run over the ensuing three minutes to increase its edge to 27-8. The Texans held Paul Quinn without a field goal for more than four during that stretch and increased the Tigers’ turnover count to 10.
Gipson later connected on a long two-point field goal with less than 2:00 to go before the horn for his final points of the night that widened the score to 39-21. Tarleton then doubled up the Tigers 42-21 entering the intermission.
Tarleton shot 59 percent from the field (17-29) in the opening 20 minutes– it’s best field goal percentage in a half thus far.
Constant pressure by Tarleton’s guard-heavy rotation reaped rewards early and often. The Texans pestered Paul Quinn into 14 first-half turnovers. With passing lanes inside mostly sealed off, Paul Quinn was forced into long possessions and longer field goal attempts. The Tigers were a paltry 1-19 (5.3 percent) from long range and when 0-11 behind the arc in the second half.
With the game out of reach, Gillispie turned to his bench in the second half, which in turn swelled Tarleton’s eventual margin of victory and gained invaluable on-court run.
Gillispie entered 15 of a possible 19 players – the most in any game for Tarleton this season. Four players made their collegiate debuts: Jaheim Holden, Jahlen Jack, Cameron Jernigan and Garrett Levesque.
Holden netted his first collegiate points with a smooth 3-pointer from the left baseline just under the 14:00 mark that upped Tarleton’s lead to 48-25. The junior, who transferred to Tarleton from Barton Community College, also dished out an assist in seven minutes of action.
Jernigan got in on the action following a triple from Hicks with 7:20 remaining that kept Tarleton comfortably ahead at 58-36. The 6-8 freshman converted an and-one from the low block on the ensuing possession. Jernigan, from Gary, Indiana, tallied four points and four rebounds.
Hicks then gave Tarleton its largest lead at 66-37 with 5:55 left before newcomer Bryce Brown sealed the Texans’ scoring figure with a nifty hook shot out of the post with 1:40 to go.
Tarleton is now 6-2 all time vs. Paul Quinn and has won six straight over the Tigers.
The Texans now embark north for another daunting three-game road trip. They face NDSU at 7 p.m. on Monday in Fargo before facing two teams currently ranked in the Associated Press top-5: No. 4 Michigan on Wednesday and No. 1 Gonzaga on Nov. 29.
The Texans next compete inside Wisdom Gym on Dec. 5 vs. Charleston Southern.