Texans axe the Lumberjacks in WAC Opener in Nacogdoches


NACOGDOCHES ­— Tarleton State Men’s Basketball earned a hard fought 68-66 win over Stephen F. Austin and overcame a brutal last 16.1 seconds of action to earn a victory in its WAC opener on Wednesday night at the William R. Johnson Coliseum.

The Texans (5-2 overall, 1-0 WAC) won their third of four WAC openers in program history with the victory over the Lumberjacks (4-3, 0-1). Tarleton handed SFA just their 20th loss in the last 11 seasons in Nacogdoches.

“It was a hard-fought game, a very good win on the road … We got the win in the end and that’s all that matters,” said coach Joseph Jones after the game.

Lue Williams posted a pair of game highs with 18 points and nine rebounds. He shot 7-of-12 from the floor including a pair from downtown. The senior added a pair of steals.

Jakorie Smith iced the game with a free throw late to finish as one of four Texans with double-digit scoring totals, 14. He also notched five boards and co-led the team with Emmanuel Innocenti totaling three steals a piece. Innocenti recorded all of his steals in the backcourt of SFA inbound plays and played an impeccable 38 minutes of lockdown defense.

KiAndre Gaddy almost notched his second-consecutive double-double scoring 15 points and pulling down eight boards. Devon Barnes found the scoring touch against the Jacks notching 11 points to score in double figures for the fourth time this season.

With 16.1 seconds remaining on the clock, and the Texans leading 67-61, Lumberjack fans started piling out of the William R. Johnson Coliseum. But the game was far from over. SFA drew a shooting foul to cut the deficit to four. Then on the ensuing inbound, the Jacks forced a TSU miscue to give SFA the ball back with 14.3 ticks remaining.

Frank Staine who finished the game with 13 points off the bench for Stephen F. Austin drew a shooting foul from behind the arc earning three shots with just 12.7 seconds remaining. The Texan bench sat in disbelief as Staine cut the Tarleton lead to 67-66. The Purple and White entrusted the ball to senior Smith who was immediately fouled and sent to the line for two shots with 11.6. The calm and collected Smith missed the first and made the second in front of the raucous SFA crowd to hold a 68-66 lead in favor of the good guys.

SFA raced down the floor looking to tie the game when Matt Hayman was fouled on the baseline. Hayman went to the line with the ability to tie it but failed to convert on either of his free throws. His second shot bounced off the back iron to an awaiting Jack rebounder who corralled the ball and called a timeout with 4.1 seconds remaining in the game.

The Jacks final play started on the far corner where Wilson launched a bucket for the win, but the tight defensive coverage for Adam Moussa proved too much as the ball clanked off the rim and the buzzer sounded signaling the Texans second win of the series and first WAC win of the 2023-24 season.

Tarleton broke out early to a 10-1 lead in the first four minutes of play. Smith got the Texans scoring with a layup to give the Purple and White the first points of the game. Barnes then followed with a free throw and a pair of buckets to account for five of the first ten for the Texans. A Moussa Layup gave the Texans their biggest lead of the half, 14-5, at the 13:04 mark. The burst by the Purple and White forced SFA to burn a pair of its timeouts in the first seven minutes of the contest. The Jacks fought back breaking out on an 11-2 run in three minutes to tie the game at 16 at the midpoint of the half. SFA grabbed its first lead of the bout on a Kimhari Wilson three-pointer to put his squad up 19-18 with just under nine minutes remaining in the half.

The Texans swapped buckets over the next few minutes with a pair of lead changes and ties. Tied at 24, SFA used a 6-0 run to put some distance between them and the Texans with four minutes remaining. Williams showed the Texans had fight, knocking down his first trey to cut the deficit in half. After a mini 4-0 run by SFA, the Texans took control to end the half. Trailing 34-27, the biggest lead of the half for the Jacks, Gaddy started a 7-0 run to close the half for the Texans.

Williams pulled up for his fifth point of the half to put the Texans within three in the final minute before the break. With an eight second difference between shot and game clock, Miles Lewis brought the ball down in the final 40 seconds of the half. After a missed corner jumper, he corralled his own rebound and dished it off to Smith at the top of the key where he buried his first triple of the night to send the Texans into the break tied at 34.

The Texans scored first out of the intermission with Barnes giving Tarleton the lead once again. For the second time in the game, Innocenti stole the inbound pass but was unable to convert it into points. In a slow start to the half, the Jacks scored the second bucket of the half to tie the game at 36 over two minutes after the break. A pair of Williams’ made free throws and a Smith bucket gave the Texans a 40-36 lead at the under-16 break.

The Jacks broke out on a mini 4-0 run but Barnes didn’t let them regain the lead after a pair of made shots at the charity stripe. SFA took their first lead of the half with a three-pointer from deep to take a 45-42 lead. Williams and Smith scored four-straight to give the Texans the lead yet again, in a back-and-forth affair.

Stephen F. Austin broke out to their biggest lead of the night, 55-46 with just over nine minutes remaining after a 10-0 Jacks run. Then, it was the Texans turn. Tarleton seemed to flip a switch and became the aggressive defensive squad they are known for. The Purple and White erupted for a 15-0 run in a six-minute span to flip the momentum into their favor. Gaddy started the run with a bucket followed by a Williams’ triple and lay-up. Gaddy scored his fourth point of the run followed by Williams tying the game with a fast break lay-up after a Smith steal.

Innocenti made three of four free throws in a pair of possessions to give the Texans a three-point lead. Moussa stepped up huge for the Texans sinking a three-pointer in front of the Tarleton bench to give the Texans a 61-55 lead and force an SFA timeout.

After a 6:33 scoring drought, the Lumberjacks made a free throw to cut the Texan lead to 61-56. SFA cut the Tarleton advantage to 63-61 before four points from Williams and Smith escalated the Purple and White to a 67-61 lead with 20 seconds remaining. The final 20 seconds proved to be an instant classic for the Texans where they came out the victors, 68-66.

Tarleton won the turnover battle, 17-11. SFA crashed the boards holding a 44-37 advantage. Tarleton State shot 25-for-62 a 40.3 percent rate from the field.

Tarleton State will wrap up their early one week of WAC play on Saturday opening its four-game homestand stretching into the middle of December against UTRGV. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. and will be streamed on ESPN+ with Kyle Crews having the KTRL 90.5 FM radio call. The first 150 early-arriving fans will receive a free mini basketball.

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