STEPHENVILLE – The Texans remain undefeated at home this season as 38 points from the bench propelled the Texans to a 68-65 victory over Southern Utah Thursday night.
“I am so proud of the effort these players displayed tonight,” said head coach Billy Gillispie. “One thing you can always count on from these guys is extreme effort, and we needed every ounce of it tonight to get a win against a premier WAC opponent.”
Tarleton (8-7, 2-1 WAC) started off the game hot with a 9-2 run over the first four-and-a-half minutes. Southern Utah (10-6, 2-1 WAC) and the Texans traded buckets back and forth for the majority of the first half with Tarleton maintaining their lead. The Thunderbirds slowly closed the gap and tied the game at 24 with four minutes remaining in the half. A pullup three-pointer from Southern Utah earned them their first lead of the game with just over three minutes left before halftime. Tarleton’s Garry Clark responded by sinking a three-pointer to regain the lead by one point. The Texans and Thunderbirds traded the lead six times in the last three minutes of the half, but a buzzer-beater jumper by Tarleton’s Noah McDavid earned the Texans a one-point advantage heading into the locker room.
Much like the first half, the Texans came out hot with an 11-0 run that consisted of back-to-back-to-back three pointers from Lue Williams and Clark. The Thunderbirds didn’t get their first points of the second half until nearly four minutes had expired. Southern Utah wasn’t out of the fight yet, however, as they answered with a 9-2 run to cut Tarleton’s lead down to five. Both teams battled back and forth with the Texans building an 11-point lead with just over seven minutes left to play. The Thunderbirds responded with a quick 9-0 run to reduce Tarleton’s lead to two points as five minutes remained on the scoreboard. Another round of battling back and forth resulted in Southern Utah regaining their lead with a mere 90 seconds left in the game. The fans in Wisdom looked stunned until a put-back layup by Williams pushed the Texans back in front, reviving the Texan fans. Tarleton made shots when it counted the most and were perfect from the free throw line in the final minute of play, remaining undefeated in Wisdom this season.
“We stuck together for 40 minutes and were at our best in the biggest moments,” added Gillispie.
Coming into this game, Southern Utah was ranked No. 2 in the nation in scoring at 89.5 PPG and 10th in rebounds per game at 41.4. The Texans not only delivered the Thunderbirds their first WAC loss in school history, but they also tied their lowest scoring competition of the season and out-rebounded them 33-31.
The Texans have now won eight straight home games dating back to last season. Tarleton hasn’t had a home-court advantage like this since the 2016-17 season, the last time they won as many sequential home games.
“The crowd was great, and with two huge doubleheader games next week, we look forward to laying it on the line for our faithful fans when the students return,” said Gillispie.
Fireside District Player of the Game, Clark, played a pivotal role on both offense and defense in the Texan win. Clark led the Texans in scoring with season-highs in points (20, 4-6 3PT) and rebounds (8). Williams picked up 15 points for the Texans, also grabbing three boards and two assists. Shakur Daniel, the lone Texan to play in all 40 minutes of the game, earned 13 points, eight rebounds and a team-high six assists. McDavid was deadly accurate for the game earning his 10 points off 4-of-5 shooting and sinking his only attempted three-pointer. McDavid also recorded four each of rebounds and assists. Tiger Booker picked up six points, scoring a clutch pair of free throws near the end of the game to help seal the Thunderbirds’ fate. Shamir Bogues earned two points and was instrumental in disrupting the Southern Utah offense throughout the game. Bogues also recorded two steals. KiAndre Gaddy recorded two points and Rod Brown grabbed two steals on the game.
“The toughest game of the year for us is coming up Saturday at Sam Houston,” commented Gillispie. “We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
The Texans head back on the road Saturday to face the Bearkats of Sam Houston in Huntsville, Texas. Sam Houston (11-4, 1-2 WAC) is coming off a loss to GCU on Thursday, their first home defeat of the season. The Bearkats rank third in the nation in scoring margin (23.6) and fourth in rebound margin (10). The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and fans can also listen through the Tarleton Sports Network. Tip-off is set for 4:30 p.m. CT at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum.