Smith stuns UTRGV at buzzer as Texans win WAC home opener


STEPHENVILLE ­— Jakorie Smith beat the buzzer from behind the arc to give the Texans a thrilling 77-75 win over the UTRGV Vaqueros on Saturday afternoon in Wisdom Gym.

Fans were on their feet when Smith’s shot heard round the ‘Ville dropped through the twine in Tarleton’s first game-winning buzzer beat as a D1 program. The Texans (6-2 overall, 2-0 WAC) became the first team in the conference to notch two wins this season and the first time in to start WAC play, 2-0. UTRGV (2-7, 0-2) sat stunned after going the length of the court for a lay-up to take a 75-74 lead with 4.1 ticks remaining.

With 4.1 seconds remaining, Joseph Jones was pleading for a timeout almost reaching half court trying to get any of the referees’ attention. Thankfully, he didn’t. Devon Barnes drove the backcourt on found Smith to his left about five feet from the three-point line. Cool and collected, Smith elevated over a Vaquero and the ball left his hands with 1.6 seconds on the clock. Wisdom Gym seemed to move in slow motion for the next few moments before his ball swished through the twine and the red lights illuminated the board signifying the Texans had won. Pandemonium ensued with the Purple and White surrounding Smith in front of the broadcast table. After a debate 0.1 seconds was put on the clock, but UTRGV was unable to catch the inbound pass, and Texan nation erupted!

“It felt great!” said Smith after the game. “I shoot shots like that all the time, it felt like it was going in… It was a heavyweight fight, they’d throw a knockout punch then we’d throw one. It just happened that I threw the last one.”

“We pride ourselves on never giving up, and fighting until the end, and the guys did a great job of doing that tonight,” said coach Jones after the buzzer-beater.

Smith, KiAndre Gaddy, Emmanuel Innocenti, Lue Williams and Barnes became the first starting five to each score in double-figures in a single game in Tarleton’s Division I era.

Gaddy posted his third double-double of the season and almost the first triple-double in Texan history. The senior ended the night with 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks. His seven blocks ties for third most all-time in program history, behind Vincent Bridgewater and Bobby Davis who each recorded eight in 2003 and 2005, respectively.

Despite just having two points in the first half, Smith rallied for 15 in the second session including the game-winner. He was a perfect four-for-four from the line and led the team with three steals.

Innocenti tied his Texan career high with 11 points while shooting 50 percent from the floor. Williams added 11 to go with five boards and two blocks. Barnes rounded out the starters with 10 points and a team-high five assists.

In a half that saw nine lead changes, Innocenti made noise in the first minute for the Texans capitalizing with a dunk following Smith’s steal on an errant Vaqueros’ pass. UTRGV responded with an 8-2 run to take the lead for the first time in the game. Just before the under-16 media break, Gaddy picked a Vaqueros’ pocket and took it coast-to-coast to bring the Texans within a bucket.

Trailing 17-12, the Innocenti sparked a 6-0 Texan run scoring four points in less than a minute to give the Texans the lead for the first time since the opening bucket. After a UTRGV response made basket, the Texans rattled off another six-straight points to take a 24-19 lead, on a 12-2 burst.

The Vaqueros used a 6-0 run of their own followed by a pair of threes to take a 36-32 lead with just over two minutes to play in the half. With a minute remaining Williams hit the Texans first three of the half to tie the game at 37. The Vaqueros made a three in rebuttal on the next possession to take a 40-37 lead into the break. The halftime lead marks the first time UTRGV has led on the road this season.

The second half kept illustrating how back and forth the game truly was. In total the game featured 26 lead changes and 17 ties. Innocenti came out of the half hot, sinking a three across from the Texans bench to tie the game for the eighth time at 40. Foul trouble became an issue for the Texans in the second half. With six minutes to play, Gaddy picked up his fourth foul. He joined Benjamin, Williams and Innocenti with four fouls already, who were forced to take time off the floor.

Smith sunk a pair of free throws at the 4:08 mark to give all five Texan starters double-digit scoring totals for the first time in Tarleton’s D1 era.

With 2:04 remaining, UTRGV held its biggest lead of the half, 73-68. The Texans responded with a Gaddy layup and a pair of made free throws by Smith to cut the deficit to one, with 1:12 remaining. After a crucial stop, Smith drove the lane with 31 ticks on the clock to put the Texans up, 74-73. On the ensuing possession, the Vaqueros held the ball at the top of the key waiting to make their move. With 10 seconds remaining Hasan Abdul-Hakim made a charge towards the basket where he found the bottom of the net to give the Vaqueros a 75-74 advantage with 4.15 seconds remaining.

Then, Smith turned the game into one of the best game all-time in Wisdom Gym hitting the Texans first game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer in the D1 era.

The Texans won the turnover battle, 17-14 and the battle of the boards, 37-33. Tarleton shot 45.2 percent from the floor (28-for-62) and only missed five from the charity stripe (18-for-23).

Tarleton State will continue their four-game homestand with a match-up against Hardin-Simmons on Dec. 5 at 7 p.m.

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