PHOENIX – College basketball’s brightest lights and largest multinational television network belonged to Tarleton men’s basketball for one evening in the Valley of the Sun.
The Texans made history on Saturday as the first Tarleton sports team to appear on ESPNU when they faced off with Grand Canyon.
More than 7,000 fans packed GCU Arena – some of whom camped outside the night prior in hopes of securing prime seating – and wholeheartedly partook in the GCU’s “ElectroLope” theme. Roxy Bernstein and Adrian Branch had the call for the ‘Worldwide Leader.’
It was a night that celebrated the true pageantry of the sport and gifted Tarleton with invaluable exposure for its basketball program and university at large.
GCU claimed the first-and-only meeting this season between the two schools, upending the Texans 80-59.
Tarleton dipped to 8-11 overall and 3-3 in conference play with the loss. GCU is now 14-2 and sits in a tie for first in the Western Athletic Conference standings with New Mexico State, whom Tarleton fell to on Thursday.
The Lopes went 12-28 from downtown and shot 54 percent from the field. GCU knocked down eight 3-pointers in the first half to assume a 44-22 halftime lead and put the game out of reach.
Shamir Bogues registered his most efficient offensive outing of his sophomore season, netting 14 points on 7-8 shooting. Bogues, who entered the ballgame ranked 15th nationally in total steals, swiped the ball away three times to up his season tally to 37.
Tahj Small matched Bogues on the stat line with a 14-point, three-steal effort. The 6-4 senior also pulled down a team-high eight rebounds. Small, the reigning WAC Player of the Week, has now scored in double figures 15 times this season.
Montre Gipson joined his position-mates in double figures with 13 points.
Not to be outdone was freshman Jayshawn Moore, who turned in the best all-around performance of his collegiate career. Moore scored 10 points – a true D1 career high – and tallied a career and game-high five steals in 25 minutes off the bench.
Fellow newcomer Jahlen Jack scored a career-best three points in as many minutes in the closing moments of the ballgame.
Two straight buckets by Small and Bogues put Tarleton in front 4-3 two minutes into the contest, but it proved to be the Texans’ last. GCU opened up a double-digit lead at 19-8 with 11:00 left to play in the first half, then increased their edge to 34-14 five minutes later.
Tarleton outscored the Lopes 37-36 in the second half but was unable to trim down the deficit under 20 points.
GCU, which was picked to finish second in the WAC in the Preseason Coaches poll, is 10-1 in home games this season.
Tarleton enjoyed an 18-13 edge in turnovers. The Texans now turn teams over an average of 17.8 times per game in road affairs this season.
GCU out-rebounded Tarleton 37-29 and limited the Texans to just two assists.
Tarleton now has an opportunity to wipe away the sting of consecutive road losses in the friendly confines of Wisdom Gym. The Texans open a two-game homestand vs. California Baptist at 7 p.m. on Thursday, then welcome Seattle U to two days later at the same time. Tarleton is 7-1 at home this season, 13-4 in Stephenville under second-year head coach Billy Gillispie and 206-36 (.851) in the building over the last 15 years.