Tarleton falls in WAC Tournament quarterfinals to Utah Valley, awaits potential postseason tournament invite


LAS VEGAS – The 7-seed Texans had another competitive contest in their first ever WAC Tournament, but the 2-seed Utah Valley Wolverines ran away with it late to win the quarterfinal matchup 72-58.

The Texans’ run in the WAC Tournament may be over, but their season is not yet. At 17-16, Tarleton has a strong chance for a postseason tournament invite, eligible to participate in everything except the NCAA Tournament and NIT, due to their ongoing reclassification period. 

The WAC regular season champion Wolverines improved to 25-7 with the win and will face the winner of the last quarterfinal game between (3) Southern Utah and (11) Utah Tech on Friday at 10 p.m. CT. 

Tarleton gave it their all on Thursday night at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, their second game in their first ever WAC Tournament, the first year they were eligible to compete in it. The Texans stormed back from a 10-point first half deficit to within a couple of possessions most of the second half, getting within a point with just over 14 minutes to play. But the Wolverines pounded the boards and blocked 10 shots, using a late 16-5 run to turn a 47-43 lead into a 63-48 advantage with five minutes to play.

The Wolverines outrebounded the Texans 37-26 and outshot Tarleton 26-of-48 (.542) to 20-of-56 (.357). They also made 7-of-15 (.467) from distance compared to Tarleton’s 2-of-9 (.222) clip from downtown. The Texans won the turnover battle for the ninth straight time, scoring 23 points off of 20 Utah Valley turnovers while allowing just five points off of 13 giveaways.

Jakorie Smith led the Texans in scoring for the second straight time in Vegas with 12 points, adding three rebounds and two steals. 

Four Texans scored in double figures, two starters and two reserves, Smith being one of them. Shamir Bogues had 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting, five rebounds and two steals. Freddy Hicks had 10 points, a team-high eight rebounds and two steals. Tiger Booker totaled 10 points and three steals. Shakur Daniel finished with eight points, a team-high four assists and two steals. Lue Williams rounded out the scoring with seven points and three rebounds.

Utah Valley had big nights out of Justin Harmon (23 points, 10-14 FG, three steals) and Trey Woodbury (21 points, 6-9 FG, 4-6 3PT, seven rebounds, four assists), plus Aziz Bandaogo had a strong second half, scoring 11 of his 12 points in the final 10 minutes, earning seven rebounds and three blocks in the game.

Hicks opened the quarterfinal battle with a layup to give Tarleton an immediate lead, then both teams traded buckets to account for all five lead changes the game would see early. When Utah Valley made it 8-6 on a Woodbury triple, they would not relinquish the lead the remainder of the contest, although Tarleton was right with Utah Valley throughout.

Daniel had the midrange working in the first half, and calmly made it 10-8 at the 14-minute mark with a deep deuce. Utah Valley held Tarleton in check for a good stretch, taking a 25-15 lead with under five minutes to play, before Williams made the Texans’ first longball to cut the deficit to seven. Booker ended the opening half in style, finishing a nice drive to make it 29-23 with two minutes to play, then immediately getting a steal and finish to cut the deficit to four. Daniel made another long two with 10 seconds left to send the purple and white into the locker room down seven at the break, 34-27.

Hicks and Bogues scored the first four points of the second half to get Tarleton back within three, then Smith picked off Woodbury a bit later and finished the play to bring Tarleton within two, 37-35. Down 41-35, Bogues drew the contact and got the layup to go for an and-one, and about a minute later, Smith took a fast break opportunity to the hole and made it a one-point game, 41-40, with 14:21 left. The teams traded baskets over the next few minutes before Utah Valley went on their run that essentially iced the game. 

The Texans will now return to Stephenville and await a potential postseason national tournament invite. Selection Sunday will be the most likely day Tarleton will know their fate. At 17 wins on the year, the Texans have already posted their most wins in a season in their NCAA Division I era. 

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