ABILENE — Tarleton State lead for the first 37 minutes but needed a last second triple to send the game to overtime before knocking down a pair of free throws to ice out the season series sweep of I-20 rival, Abilene Christian, 76-73, in overtime, in Moody Coliseum.
Jakorie Smith was the hero for the Texans (14-7, 7-3) once again, draining a three-pointer with 11.3 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 67 and send the second game of the I-20 Rivalry against the Wildcats (8-13, 3-7) to overtime. Lue Williams iced the game in the final seconds of overtime with a pair of free throws to send the Texan bench in jubilation as the buzzer sounded.
“There’s nothing like earning a road victory in the WAC,” said acting head coach Joseph Jones postgame. “We played hard, and our seniors stepped up when called upon to make some big-time plays. There’s no better feeling than winning a hard-fought battle on the road against our I-20 rival.”
Williams led the Texans in scoring for the fifth time this season, posting a game-high 25. He also added six boards, a steal and a block. The Atmore, Alabama, native, shot 10-for-17 from the floor and was a perfect five-for-five from the charity stripe.
Smith notched his 14th double-digit scoring effort of the season with 17. The senior shot three-for-nine from deep, including the triple to send the game to overtime. Smith led the squad with three steals assists and two steals.
KiAndre Gaddy, the WAC leader in offensive rebounds pulled down 12 along with nine points. Seven of Gaddy’s 12 came on the offensive glass.
The Texans held the lead for 34:44 in regulation never allowing the Wildcats to take the lead until back-to-back buckets gave the Wildcats a 62-58 lead with 2:43 remaining. In the final three minutes, a Texan comeback started to seem out of the reach with Tarleton trailing by as five, 65-60 with 1:01 to go.
A mid-range jumper by Emmanuel Innocenti found the bottom of the net and drew the foul, to shrink the deficit to three with 51 seconds left. After missing his and-one opportunity, the Texans fouled ACU at half court where they made a pair of freebies to bring the lead back to five. Williams drove the paint for an easy layup to cut the deficit to two with 27 ticks to go.
A Texan foul sent JV Seat to the line, where he missed a pair giving the Texans the ball and 24 seconds. The ball found the hands of none other than Smith, where he drove in traffic to the corner by the bench took a step and launched a three with 11.3 ticks remaining. The ball swished through the net, illuminating the Texan bench as Smith shimmied down the floor happily. A least second desperation shot by Airion Simmons didn’t fall, sending the Texans to overtime for the first time since the final game of last season on March 19, against Radford in the first round of the CBI.
In the extra five minutes, the Texans quickly ran out to a four-point lead, thanks to Smith and Devon Barnes. ACU responded with a pair of buckets on consecutive possessions to tie the game once again, at 71. Williams converted an and-one layup to give TSU a three-point lead with 2:51 remaining.
ACU cut its deficit to one, 74-73 with just over a minute remaining. After forcing a Texan turnover, the Wildcats missed a pair of shots resulting in an Innocenti defensive rebound. Abilene Christian elected not to foul with 39 seconds left on the clock giving them a chance to get the ball back for eight seconds. Barnes held the ball at the top of the key and took over with 15 on the clock. Smith was unable to knock down a corner jumper but Williams’ cat-like reflexes earned him an offensive board and was fouled with 8.1 on the clock.
After knocking down his pair of free throws, ACU got a clean look at a three-pointer from the corner in front of its bench by Nasir DeGruy, but it was offline. Tarleton rushed the court in celebration as the buzzer sounded signifying the 76-73 overtime victory.
The Texans used a hot start to put the Wildcats in a frenzy and force ACU to use its first timeout in the first three minutes of the game. Back-to-back layups by Williams gave the Texans a 4-0 start. Innocenti found himself open at the top of the key where he drained a wide-open triple to force the timeout at the 17:51 mark. Immediately following the timeout, Smith found the basket on a strip-and-score to put the Texans ahead, 9-0.
The Wildcats fought back but were never able to grab the lead back in the first 20. ACU used a 14-7 run to cut its deficit to two, 16-14, at the 7:07 mark. But, the Texans responded with a 5-0 run to bring its lead back up to seven.
A deep triple by Smith gave the Texans their biggest lead of the half, 29-19, with 2:47 to go. The Texans swapped baskets in the final minutes to carry a 31-23 advantage into the break. Williams led all scorers with 14 while shooting six-of-nine from the floor. Gaddy, who entered the game seventh in the nation in offensive rebounds, picked up seven total boards with five on the offensive end in the first half.
The Purple and White shot 25-for-66 from the floor, 42.4 percent. The Texans shot over 30 percent from long range for the eighth time this season, resulting in their seventh win, shooting six-for-17, a 35.3 percent rate.
The Texans won the turnover battle for the 86th time in their D1 era, and 15th time this season, 13-12. Tarleton also won the battle of the boards, 41-34.
Tarleton will close out the week looking for its second possible series sweep of the week with a revenge match against Stephen F. Austin. The Texans held off the Lumberjacks after a big first half for a 68-66 victory last November in the first WAC game of the season. The Jacks will come to town for a 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon tip on Military Appreciation Night. Early arriving fans will receive a free Tarleton camo koozie.