STEPHENVILLE – Tarleton and UTRGV have met four times in the last two years, and all have had a similar finish – a Texan double-digit victory.
The Texans controlled Thursday night’s game from the jump, racing to a double-digit lead, going up by 20 at halftime, before settling on a 75-62 win. Tarleton remained undefeated against the Vaqueros, now 4-0, as they improved above .500 in WAC play to 8-7, 13-15 overall. The Vaqueros set a new season-long losing streak at six games. They’re 7-21 overall, 2-14 in the conference.
With Tarleton’s campus forced to remote learning because of the weather, the Texans and Vaqueros toughed it out to still meet Thursday at Wisdom Gym in Stephenville. Tarleton was plenty warm to start the game, making their first three shots to take a quick 8-2 lead, which grew to a 16-5 advantage less than seven minutes into the game.
At the 12:22 mark, there was an even more welcome sight than a large lead, as Shakur Daniel checked into the game for the first time since Dec. 21. He returned after two months from an injury that was feared to cost him the rest of the season, and played well in his first game back, finishing with four points (1-1 FG) and three rebounds in 18 minutes.
The Vaqueros tried to stick around, getting within nine at the seven-minute mark. Tarleton ended the opening frame on a 19-8 run to lead by 20 at the break, 42-22.
UTRGV won the second half 40-33, but the game was never in doubt, as Tarleton led by about 15-20 points seemingly all game.
Montre Gipson led all scorers with 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field, including 3-of-4 from distance, adding three assists. It was his sixth 20+ point game of the season, matching his six such games from last year.
Freddy Hicks joined him with 20 points (10-11 FT), adding three assists as well. This is Hicks’ first career stretch of scoring 20+ point games, recording his sixth 20+ point game of the year. Against UTRGV this season, Hicks averaged 24.5 points on 15-of-27 shooting (.556), 3.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists.
Tahj Small added 11 points and four rebounds, while Shamir Bogues tallied nine points on 4-of-7 shooting, five rebounds and three blocks.
Tarleton had just seven turnovers, nearly a season-low, while forcing 15 from UTRGV.
The Vaqueros were led by Justin Johnson’s 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting, to go with five rebounds. Quinton Johnson II (12 points, 3-6 FG) and RayQuan Taylor (10 points, 4-5 FG, eight rebounds) also scored in double figures for UTRGV.
Tarleton will play their last home game of the season on Saturday against Lamar at 7 p.m. CT. The Cardinals are last in the WAC with an 0-15 conference record, 2-24 overall.