Sellout at Wisdom, Tarleton sets new D1 era attendance record in loss

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STEPHENVILLE – It was an atmosphere unparalleled Wednesday night at the Tarleton men’s basketball game in Wisdom Gym, where the Texans played in front of a sellout crowd.

The night dubbed “White Out Wisdom” did not disappoint thanks to the 3,017 students and fans who packed the arena, setting a new NCAA Division I and Western Athletic Conference era attendance record for Tarleton. A sea of white enveloped the stands and made for an incredible atmosphere.

Tarleton dropped their second straight to Utah Valley 69-56, falling to 6-7 in WAC play, 11-15 overall. The Wolverines improved to 17-8 overall, 8-5 in conference.

Rebounding proved the biggest obstacle for Tarleton, losing the battle of the boards 45-21. Utah Valley’s Fardaws Aimaq pulled down 20 himself, adding 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting and three blocks. The purple and white couldn’t get it done shooting either, making 18-of-54 (.333) from the field, 6-of-24 (.250) from beyond the arc, including a 0-of-12 spot in the second half from distance. Utah Valley, meanwhile, made 25-of-51 (.490) from the field, 7-of-19 (.368) from deep. The Wolverines outscored the Texans in the paint 34-14.

Despite those marks, this game was a thriller from start to finish, mostly thanks to Tarleton’s 21 forced turnovers, leading to 21 points, while turning it over just nine times themselves.

The Wolverines built a quick 12-point lead to open the game, up 19-7 at the second media timeout. When it was 30-20 Utah Valley with under five to play in the first half, Tarleton put together a 15-5 run to tie it at the break, 35-35. Tarleton made three three-pointers in the stretch, two by Montre Gipson and one by Noah McDavid. With Wisdom buzzing, Javontae Hopkins gave Tarleton their first lead since it was 2-0 with a fast break dunk at the seven-second mark. He was met with an unusual technical foul for hanging on the rim.

Both teams went back and forth virtually the entire second half, neither squad leading by more than six points through nearly 14 minutes. When it was 52-49 Utah Valley with 8:11 remaining, the Wolverines closed the game on a 17-7 run to quiet the sellout crowd.

Gipson and Hicks led the Texans with 14 points apiece. Gipson added six rebounds, five assists and four steals. Hicks notched five assists and two rebounds. Hopkins, who made his third start of the season and first since Jan. 1, recorded his third double-digit scoring game of the season with 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting, three rebounds and two steals.

Utah Valley’s Aimaq was joined in double figures by Blaze Nield (12 points) and Tim Fuller (10 points, 4-5 FG, three rebounds). Connor Harding tallied nine points, nine rebounds and five assists. Jaden McClanahan led the bench with nine points.

The Texans will make a quick one-game trip to Chicago State next to play the Cougars on Saturday at 2 p.m. CT. Next week, Tarleton will have their last two home games of the season, on Thursday against UTRGV and on Saturday against Lamar. Both games will tip-off at 7 p.m. CT.

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