STEPHENVILLE – The Texans defended Wisdom Gym against the top ranked team in the WAC, Utah Valley, with a decisive 77-58 victory on Thursday night.
Tarleton (15-14, 9-8 WAC) held Utah Valley (21-7, 12-3 WAC) to only two made shots (2-17 FG) from the field the entire first half and their lowest field goal percentage (.318) in a game this season. Although undersized compared to the Wolverine, the Texans beat Utah Valley on the boards (39-38).
On offense, the Texans outpaced the Wolverines in points from turnovers (22-3), in the paint (24-20), off second chances (17-7), off fast breaks (11-8) and from the bench (19-12). Tarleton also recorded their highest free throw percentage of the season, making 34-of-38 (.895) from the charity stripe.
The Texans played lights out from tip-off, establishing the lead off a three-pointer from Garry Clark after trailing Utah Valley for less than a minute to start the game. Tarleton never looked back, quickly padding their lead to nine points while holding the Wolverines to only four free throws over the first eight minutes of the half.
Halfway through the first half, Tarleton had only yielded nine points to Utah Valley and wouldn’t allow another Wolverine field goal for the remainder of the half. The Wolverines worked their deficit down to five points with just over four minutes remaining until halftime.
An 11-2 for the Texans over the final two minutes of the half secured a 15-point Tarleton advantage heading into the locker room at 35-20.
Utah Valley went 16-for-18 from the charity stripe in the first half, accounting for 80 percent of their halftime points.
The Wolverines returned to the court and quickly picked up two buckets in the paint before being silenced by back-to-back corner three-pointers from Shamir Bogues and Freddy Hicks.
At the 17-minute mark of the second half, Utah Valley’s Trey Woodbury was dealt a Class A technical foul off a shooting foul from Tim Fuller, resulting in four-straight made free throws from Lue Williams to build up a 19-point lead.
With 10 minutes left in the game, the Texans established their greatest lead of the competition at 21 points off another pair of perfect free throws from Williams. However, a 12-2 run from the Wolverines shrunk Tarleton’s lead down to 11 with just over six minutes left to play.
At just under the five-minute mark, Woodbury was charged with his fifth foul of the game. An exchanging of words with a referee led to him receiving two more Class A technical fouls and the Utah Valley bench receiving two Class B technical fouls.
Hicks capitalized on the moment, sinking five of the six free throws awarded from the Wolverine fouls to take a 17-point lead.
The Texans reestablished their largest lead of the game of 21 points from a pair of Tiger Booker free throws with two minutes remaining in the game.
The teams traded buckets back and forth over the final minutes, but a second-chance dunk from KiAndre Gaddy hammered the last nail in the coffin for Utah Valley.
The Texans tied their largest margin of victory of the season (19; Grand Canyon; 1/28/23) with a 77-58 win over Utah Valley, who held the top spot in the WAC entering the game.
Hicks and Williams scored 17 points apiece for the game. Hicks went 12-of-13 from the charity stripe, secured a team-high eight rebounds and grabbed two steals. Williams went a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line and grabbed four rebounds.
Bogues earned 16 points (4-9 FG, 7-9 FT), five rebounds, three steals and two assists for the day. He also played lockdown defense on Woodbury, contributing immensely to the quiet first half for Utah Valley.
Booker went a perfect 6-of-6 from the charity stripe, earning eight points in total off the bench. Clark and Jakorie Smith each earned five points and five rebounds. Smith tacked on four assists and two steals.
Shakur Daniel had three points while Javontae Hopkins and Gaddy each picked up two points.
Tarleton will head to Edinburg on Saturday, facing the UTRGV Vaqueros for their final game of conference play this season. Last time out, the Vaqueros narrowly escaped Stephenville with a three-point win in the final minutes of the game. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN+. Fans can also listen in on KTRL 90.5 FM.