STEPHENVILLE – The Texans defended Wisdom Gym from UT-Arlington on Thursday, securing a 70-63 victory against their first WAC opponent of the season.
“Great win for the Texans to open WAC play,” said head coach Billy Gillispie. “The WAC is ranked the 12th best conference in the country and is getting better each and every day. The 18-game schedule will be an extremely tough marathon.”
Tarleton (7-6, 1-0 WAC) fell behind by two after UTA (5-9, 0-1 WAC) picked up the first bucket of the game. The Mavericks only held the lead for the first 33 seconds of the competition. Tarleton quickly responded with a layup and three-pointer to jump ahead 5-2. With four minutes gone in the first half, the Texans began a 20-7 run that held the Mavericks to under double-digit scoring until five minutes were left in the half. Tarleton continued to push the pedal to the metal and finished with a decisive 15-point lead over UTA.
The Texans’ output didn’t halt in the first half. Tarleton grew their lead to a peak of 20 points with 15 minutes remaining in the game. The Mavericks more than doubled their field goal percentage from the first half, attempting to steal back the game from Tarleton. The Texans had different plans, fending off any sort of run the Mavericks hoped to make. UTA gave a final push near the end of the game, finally coming within single digits of tying as the clock read 39 seconds remaining. Tarleton resisted any final efforts and took the 70-63 victory to begin conference play 1-0.
“I am so proud of the effort of our guys,” added Gillispie. “We dismantled a very good offensive team for a majority of the game with fantastic energy and defensive intensity! Along with us making a bunch of timely shots, it was a great start to the conference season.”
Lue Williams led the Texans in scoring for the second game in a row, earning 21 points and three steals. Coming off the bench, Tiger Booker picked up his third double-digit scoring contest with 15 points, three rebounds and two assists. Booker was instrumental in helping the Texans run out the clock near the end of the game. Shakur Daniel, who earned Player of the Game honors, picked up 11 points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals over 40 minutes of play. Noah McDavid, playing in only his second game since Arizona State, earned nine points while playing a crucial role in containing the Mavericks’ Aaron Cash on the defensive side of the ball. Jakorie Smith picked up six points, three rebounds and two assists. KiAndre Gaddy grabbed a team-high eight rebounds, five assists, four points, two blocks and two steals while causing havoc for UTA on offense. Rod Brown picked up two points and two rebounds in limited playing time. Javontae Hopkins scored two points off a monstrous fast-break dunk.
“Very nice crowd at Wisdom that our players certainly appreciate, and we hope that as many fans as possible will be able to follow us to Abilene when we try for our second conference win against bitter rival ACU on Saturday,” said Gillispie.
Tarleton will have a quick turnaround as they travel to Abilene to take on the Wildcats of Abilene Christian on New Year’s Eve. The Texans are hoping to jump out to a 2-0 record in conference as the Wildcats are coming off a loss in their WAC opener to SFA. Tip-off at ACU’s Moody Coliseum is set for 3 p.m. CT.