#2 Tarleton State opens 2024 WAC Tournament in Semifinals against #3 UT Arlington


LAS VEGAS — For the first time in Tarleton State’s Division I era, the second-seeded Texans will play in the WAC Semifinals against third-seeded UT Arlington at the Orleans Arena on Friday night at 10:30. The game will be the first Tarleton Athletics contest on a national linear network with the game airing on ESPNU. Tarleton will need just one win to reach the WAC Tournament Championship on Saturday night.

For the first time since 2016, the WAC semifinals will be nationally televised with the game on ESPNU and ESPN+. Ben Wilson and Dave Miller will have the call with Kendra Sheehan reporting for the sideline. The game will have to ways to listen with Braiden Bell holding the national call on 970 Online Sirius XM Radio and Kyle Crews with the Tarleton State call on 90.5 KTRL.

After making and winning the first game in its WAC Tournament debut just a year ago, Tarleton State finds themselves the second overall seed and just one win away from a conference title game appearance. In the 40-year history of the WAC Tournament, the second seed has reached the semifinals 30 times with an 18-12 overall record. The two seed has reached the championship 18 times, winning 12 titles.

To begin the week, the Texans earned multiple WAC Awards including acting head coach Joseph Jones tabbed WAC Coach of the Year. KiAndre Gaddy earned the title of WAC Defensive Player of the Year and Jakorie Smith became the Texans’ first, First Team All-WAC selection. Freshman Emmanuel Innocenti earned All-Defensive and All-Freshman honors. The Texans are the only school in the league to have at least one player named to the All-Defensive team in each of the past three seasons. Gaddy became the fourth different honoree of the DPOY award, an honor that originated six years ago.

For the first time in 10 seasons, the Texans have four players who are averaging at least 12 points per game. Smith (15.8), Williams (13.2), Devon Barnes (12.7) and Gaddy (12.2) have been the main source of offense for the Texans. Senior transfer Adam Moussa has provided an offensive spark as of late scoring in double figures in three of his last five games including his first double-double with 11 points and 10 assists against CBU.

The Purple and White finished the regular season 16-4 in the WAC play, and 23-8 overall, breaking program records for total and WAC wins in a season and securing an over-.500 overall record for the first time in the D1 era. The Texans reached the 20-win mark for the 20th time in program history and the first in their Division I era.

Tarleton State announced on March 7 that it had extended the contract of Billy Gillispie until 2026. Jones who has been filling in since Nov. 19 will finish out the remainder of the season at the helm of the program. Gillispie will remain in an advisory role for the first-year head coach. Jones has amassed a 20-6 record this season, the most by any coach this season that didn’t start the season with the head job.

Tarleton ended the regular season on an eight-game road winning streak. The Texans have not lost a game away from Wisdom since Jan. 13 at Grand Canyon, over two months ago. TSU closed the regular season winning 11 of their last 12, including boasting at the nation’s second active longest winning streak during the span. Tarleton finished the month of February a perfect 8-0, the first perfect month of three games or more in their D1 era and the 19th in program history.

Gaddy has had a record-breaking season on the offensive glass. The senior’s 3.85 offensive rebounds per game has ranked Top 10 in the nation throughout most of the entire season and is currently ninth. He has shattered the Texans’ D1 era record of offensive rebounds in a single season (119) doubling Montre Gipson’s 2021-22 mark of 53. His 119 has been climbing the leaderboards of most in a single season in program history currently sitting with the sixth best total. He can take the fifth slot with four more on Friday night.

Tarleton has been consistent with their starting lineup, featuring the same five starters for the last 28 games this season. Currently, it is tied for the sixth active longest streak in the country. The Texans are one of 30 schools in the country to use three or less starting lineups this season.

UT Arlington opened the WAC Tournament on Thursday night with a commanding 106-76 victory over the sixth seed, Stephen F. Austin. The Mavericks broke the record for most points in a WAC Tournament game and the most three-pointers made in tournament history. Phillip Russell led all scorers with 30 points, the most in a tournament game this season.

The Texans bested the Mavericks twice this season, a pair of two-point affairs in Stephenville and Arlington. This will be the first neutral site matchup between the two schools, while UTA leads the all-time series, 8-5. Both the Mavericks and the Texans carry a 1-1 all-time record in the WAC Tournament.

The winner of Friday night’s match-up will reach the WAC Tournament Championship game and will face the winner of #4 Seattle and #1 Grand Canyon who will play before the Texans’ on Friday night. If both GCU and Tarleton State win on Friday night, GCU will receive the WAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament due to Tarleton State’s ineligibility due to the reclassification process. Seattle U and UT Arlington will earn the bid if they win the title, but GCU will earn the bid with a win of their own or a Tarleton State title.

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