ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands – The Texans start the Paradise Jam tournament with a first-round 89-81 win over Belmont on Thursday at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center.
Belmont (1-3, 0-0 MVC) began the game with a dagger three-pointer to jump out ahead of Tarleton 3-0, it was the first and only time the Texans trailed for the remainder of the game. Tarleton (2-1, 0-0 WAC) responded to the Bruins’ opening three-pointer with a 12-5 run over the first three and a half minutes of gameplay. Belmont bounced back with a 6-0 run of their own to bring the gap to one point with 14 minutes left in the first half. It was the closest they came to tying Tarleton through the rest of the competition. The Texans grew their lead to as much as 17 points in the first half and checked into the locker room with a 44-31 lead.
Tarleton started the second half by extending their lead to 19 points over the first two minutes. The Texans and Bruins then traded baskets back and forth through the first 10 minutes until Belmont reduced their deficit to single digits with just 10 and a half minutes remaining in the game. Belmont began to pick up their shots from range (shooting 9-of-18 from the arc on the game), pulling within six points of Tarleton with only one minute and 10 seconds left in the game. The Bruins were forced to foul to stop the clock to end the game, but the Texans held onto the lead and picked up the first-round win in the Paradise Jam.
Sophomore guard/forward Freddy Hicks made his season debut tonight after a foot injury kept him sidelined during the start of the season. Hicks’ return to the court was nothing short of impressive, playing 39 of the 40 possible minutes. He picked up 26 points (4-7 FG, 18-28 FT) and added eight rebounds, four assists and three steals as well. Hicks’ 18 made free throws are the most in a game by a player since Tarleton became a Division I university.
Junior Lue Williams earned his first double-digit scoring game of the season with 16 points (5-12 FG and 6-8 FT) and grabbed six rebounds. Shamir Bogues, who played 35 minutes of the game scored 14 points, collected five rebounds and dished out three assists. Jakorie Smith, the Utica, Mississippi, native, had his second double-digit scoring game of the season (12 points, 3-7 FG, 2-3 3PT, 4-4 FT) and added three rebounds to his stat sheet. In his second start of the season, Mareng Gatkuoth scored eight points (3-4 FG, 1-2 FT) and brought down two rebounds. Javontae Hopkins, who sealed the game with a huge two-handed slam dunk, picked up six points (3-3 FG). Graduate student Daniel Shakur also played 35 minutes in tonight’s competition, picking up five points (1-2 FG, 1-1 3PT, and 2-4 FT) and three assists through a strong defensive showing. The St. Louis, Missouri, native, Garry Clark scored two points (1-5 FG) through the game.
Tarleton’s first-round win means they will play Boston College on Sunday, Nov. 20, at 7 PM CT. They will once again be playing at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.