LAS CRUCES – Montre Gipson scored a game-high 23 points but Tarleton fell to New Mexico State 73-57 on Thursday in a Western Athletic Conference affair inside the Pan American Center.
The 5-11 guard tallied 14 points in the first half and scored seven of the Texans’ first 11 out of the intermission to keep Tarleton within four points of the Aggies at 44-40 with 13:20 to go.
NMSU then put the game out of reach with a 25-5 extended scoring run over the ensuing seven-and-a-half minutes.
The Texans are now 8-10 overall and 3-2 in WAC play. The loss was just the third in 10 tries for Tarleton, which entered as winners as six of its last seven conference games dating back to last season.
The long ball loomed large in the lone meeting this season between Texans and Aggies, who were picked to win the conference in the Preseason Coaches and Media polls. NMSU (14-2, 4-0 WAC) canned a dozen 3-pointers – tied for their second-most in a game this season – and went 8-17 from downtown in the second half. The Aggies scored 18 of their points during their decisive 20-point run from behind the arc.
Tarleton went 6-20 from downtown and shot 19-55 (34 percent) combined.
Gipson was responsible for all-but-one of the Texans’ triples.
The senior single-handedly willed Tarleton to stay within single digits of the Aggies throughout the evening.
NMSU scored 10 of the game’s first 12 points, but Gipson bookended a pair of 3-pointers around buckets inside by Tahj Small and Shamir Bogues to get Tarleton within a point at 15-12 at the 12:25 mark of the half.
Gipson then tied the game at 19-19 with 7:44 to play in the half with his third make from long range following four straight points by Noah McDavid.
Tarleton held NMSU to a 2-10 mark from the field in that stretch.
The Aggies responded with an 8-0 run, but freshman Jayshawn Moore scored five straight points as Tarleton countered. Moore, 6-6, first curled a layup off one leg and around two defenders with his non-dominant left hand, then converted a three-point play via a drive to the rack from the high post.
Moore’s flurry set up Gipson’s fourth 3-pointer of the night, an NBA-range snipe from the left key with 1:30 remaining in the half that trimmed the Aggies lead to 30-27.
NMSU entered the locker room ahead 35-29.
Following Gipson’s midrange jumper that cut the NMSU advantage to 44-40, Tarleton converted just one field goal over the next eight minutes.
Gipson now leads Tarleton in scoring at 15.3 points per game. He has scored in double figures in nine straight games and 28 times in his two-year Texan career.
For the first time in five games, Gipson got a breather during the game. He subbed out with two minutes to go as Tarleton emptied its bench. Gipson had gone the distance in four straight games. He leads the NCAA in minutes played at 641.
Freddy Hicks came two rebounds shy of recording his fourth career double-double and first this season. He finished with 10 points and eight boards. Hicks has scored in double figures in all five conference games for Tarleton this season.
Moore tallied six points and four rebounds – both of which are career highs in true D1 games. The Detroit, Michigan native gave Tarleton 19 points off the bench.
Fellow newcomer Bryce Brown also registered D1 career highs in points (four) and rebounds (three) in just six minutes of action.
Tarleton forced 17 turnovers compared to 12 of its own and went 13-17 (77 percent) at the foul line. Tarleton is forcing an average of 18 turnovers per game in conference play.
NMSU out-rebounded Tarleton 36-27 and dished out 16 assists to the Texans’ nine.
Tarleton now concludes its two-game swing through the southwestern United States with a trip to Phoenix to face reigning WAC regular season and tournament champion Grand Canyon. The Texans and Lopes square off at 8 p.m. CT on Saturday. The game will air on ESPNU and be Tarleton’s first-ever appearance on the network.