Texans win vital WAC game against Wolverines to start homestand


STEPHENVILLE – The Texans entered Thursday with a crucial three-game homestand against similar teams in the WAC standings with spots to the WAC Tournament on the line, and Tarleton State came through at Wisdom Gym.

The Texans (7-14, 4-8 WAC) defeated Utah Valley (8-13, 3-9 WAC) 60-55 to improve to tied-seventh in the conference in an 11-team league that sends eight teams to Las Vegas for the conference tournament this season. This marked the second straight win for Tarleton at home, as they improved to 3-6 at Wisdom Gym, and they sent the Wolverines to a tied-season-long skid of three games.

“I’m really proud of our team this evening,” head coach Bill Brock said. “Our defense and rebounding were solid the entire game and we hit clutch shots and free throws in the fourth quarter. This was an important game for us and now we have an opportunity to play at home again on Saturday. Thanks to Texan Nation for showing up the past two home games, and we hope to see another good crowd on Saturday.”

Tarleton State used a couple of big runs in the middle quarters to come back from a slow start offensively. In fact, it was a slow start offensively for both teams, who found themselves in a 6-5 game with less than two minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Texans took a 6-5 lead at the 5:48 mark and didn’t score the rest of the frame, with Utah Valley scoring six straight in the final 90 seconds to take an 11-6 lead into the second. Both teams combined to shoot 5-of-25 (.200) in the opening frame, 1-of-10 (.100) from distance, plus 11 turnovers.

The Wolverines continued their momentum into the second quarter, turning their 6-5 deficit into a 16-8 lead with 8:15 to go in the half, an 11-2 run. That’s when the Texans came to life. Just two minutes later, Tarleton State had the lead back thanks to a 10-0 run, with four points by Jakoriah Long, four points by Miannah Little, and two points by Tyler Jackson. Utah Valley responded and got back a four-point lead, 24-20, but the Texans closed with a three-pointer by Karyn Sanford and a Nykesha Sanders free throw to lead by one at the break, 28-27. Entering the night, the Texans were 5-2 when leading at halftime and, including Thursday, led at the midway points four of the last five games. The Texans scored 22 points in the second quarter to just six in the first, shooting 7-of-12 (.583) from the field in the frame, 6-of-7 (.857) from the stripe.

Although it seemed like a tight third quarter, it actually marked the largest margin of difference in a frame in the game, a quarter the Texans won 19-12. They shot 6-of-12 (.500) from the field, 3-of-6 (.500) from distance, and didn’t allow the Wolverines to get to the free throw line.

Utah Valley stuck around in the fourth, and the lead never grew more than seven points. But Tarleton came up clutch late, making 5-of-5 free throws in the quarter, and Lexi Bull iced the game on a pump-fake layup to make it a five-point difference with 16 ticks left.

Long and Little shared the scoring title with each at 15 points. Long made 6-of-8 from the free throw line, adding four assists, while Little shot 4-of-8 from the field, 6-of-6 from the stripe, to go with two steals. Lexi Bull pulled down 10 rebounds to go with three assists, and Elise Turrubiates (nine points, seven rebounds) and Jackson (nine points, 4-5 FG, six rebounds) had solid games as well.

Neither team shot particularly well, with Tarleton outshooting Utah Valley 19-of-48 (.396) to 19-of-51 (.373). One of the best teams in the nation in forcing turnovers, the Wolverines won the takeaway battle 20-14, but the Texans outrebounded them 37-29.

Utah Valley was led by Eleyana Tafisi’s 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting. Saige Gibb powered the bench with 10 points.

The Texans will continue their three-game homestand on Saturday against Seattle U at 2 p.m.

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