Smith scores 30 in Texans exhibition defeat of Howard Payne to start the 2023-24 season


STEPHENVILLE — Jakorie Smith’s 30-point led Tarleton State Men’s Basketball in its 2023-24 opener to a 105-42 exhibition win against Howard Payne on Monday night in Wisdom Gym.

For the third consecutive season, the Texans earned a win in their exhibition contest and for the second time against an American Southwest Conference opponent. Tarleton State will have the rest of the week to prepare for its season-opening matchup against the ACC’s Virginia Cavaliers who received votes in both preseason national polls.

“Tonight was a really exciting start for the Texans,” said Gillispie following the victory. “What a crowd we had for an exhibition! As we begin our monster schedule, we will do our best to represent Tarleton State. We can’t wait to get started next week at the University of Virginia and we look forward to filling Wisdom Gym during out first home date, Nov. 11 against UNT Dallas.”

Jakorie Smith broke out for the Texans posting 30 including a 19-point first half. The senior added six boards, four assists, two steals and shot six-of-nine from three-point range.

KiAndre Gaddy crashed the boards and tickled the nets in a spectacular way for a double-double. The senior topped the Texans with 15 rebounds and three blocks. 

Freshmen Bubu Benjamin and Emmanuel Innocenti each made a big splash in their first game as a Texan recording 15 and 10 respectively, off the bench. Innocenti also demonstrated his tight defense snatching four steals in his Texan debut.

Izzy Miles earned the start in his first game in Stephenville and co-led the team with four assists with Smith and Innocenti.

Familiar faces, Lue Williams and Gaddy started off the scoring for the Texans. Williams nailed a three in the first nine seconds followed by a Gaddy with a monstrous dunk in the first 30 seconds of play. Williams capped a 10-0 run to start the game for the Texans with another from beyond the arc.

Smith broke out for 11 out of the next fifteen Tarleton points to give the Texans a 25-6 lead just over seven minutes into the contest. Nine of Smith’s 11 came from downtown to ignite the crowd and get them on their feet. Smith finished the half five-of-eight from behind the arc with a game-high 19 points.

Near the midpoint of the first half, Innocenti went coast-to-coast swiping a steal and finishing it on the other end via a thunderous slam. All four of his steals came in the first ten minutes of the first half.

The Texans led by as many as 35 in the first half, 52-17, after a Benjamin made free throw. In total, the Texans knocked down eight trifectas in the half at a 40 percent rate. The Texan defense lived up to its hype with 10 first half steals and 14 forced turnovers.

Smith and Gaddy teamed up on the Texans’ first points of the second half on a Smith takeaway which led to an erupting dunk by Gaddy. Smith started a mini 7-0 run on yet another three to increase the Texan lead to 65-24. Leading 67-28, Smith then scored the next eight Texan points on two layups, a jumper and a pair of made free throws to bump the Texans up to a 40-point advantage, 75-34.

Starting with 11:06 remaining in the contest, the Texans embarked on a 21-point run to escalate their lead to 96-36. During the run, Benjamin was responsible for 11 of the 21 including four points in eight seconds. After a full-court pass set him up for an easy layup, he intercepted the in-bound pass and laid it in for another pair. Nasan Ayala made a free throw and a pair of layups including a layup to cap the run with 4:47 remaining and give the Texans a 60-point lead.

Tarleton eclipsed the century mark on a Miles Lewis layup with just a few ticks more than two minutes to go in the contest. Zaakir Sawyer and Joseph Martinez saw their first points of the game in the final minute. Martinez was the last to score, draining a corner three in the Texans final scoring possession of the night.

The Purple and White dominated the Yellow Jackets in the paint, 56-16 and on the glass, 50-31. The Texans shot 54.1 percent from the floor including 36.7 from deep. HPU shot 13-for-46 from the floor at a 28.7 clip and 23.7 percent from beyond the arc. The Texan defense reputation held true with Tarleton forcing 28 turnovers and capitalizing with 38 points off the takeaways.

Tarleton State will open its regular season slate in Charlottesville, Virginia against the Virginia Cavaliers on Monday, Nov. 6. Tip off is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT from John Paul Jones Arena. The game will be broadcasted on ACCXN on ESPN+. Kyle Crews will have the radio call from Charlottesville on KTRL 90.5.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.