No. 5 Tarleton State 73, A&M-Commerce 69
Location: The Field House • Commerce, Texas
Records: A&M-Commerce (6-10, 1-7 LSC); Tarleton State (16-1, 8-0 LSC)
Up Next: at No. 5 Tarleton State • Saturday, January 21 • 7 p.m. • Stephenville, Texas
COMMERCE, Texas -- In front of its largest crowd of the season, A&M-Commerce had upset on its mind, hosting fifth-ranked and Lone Star Conference-leading Tarleton State at the Field House. But a late run following a sluggish second half came up just short as the Lions fall to the Texans 73-69.
Four different Lions scored in double figures on the night, led by 19 points from Preston Whitley, who added three rebounds and three assists off the bench while hitting seven-of-14 shots from the floor. LaBree Sledge and Desmond King each added 13 points for A&M-Commerce, with King recording all 13 of his points in the second half. King also finished with six rebounds while Sledge dished out six assists and pulled down a team-best seven rebounds.
Brad Hambrick finished with 10 points for A&M-Commerce, finishing with three rebounds. Devondrick Walker had another solid start for the Lions, posting six points, six rebounds and five assists while Esteban Arriola added six points off the bench.
A crowd of over 1,200 was on hand at the Field House as Tarleton State brought its 15-1 record and its top-five national ranking to Commerce, but the Lions came into the game with upset on their minds. They looked solid early, with Hambrick, Sledge and Arriola each hitting big three-point shots as A&M-Commerce grabbed the early 23-16 advantage with just under eight minutes remaining in the opening half.
Tarleton responded with an 8-1 run of its own, however, tying the game at 24-24 with 4:18 remaining in the opening half. The Texans and Lions then exchanged baskets down the stretch as over the opening 20 minutes, the teams combined for three ties and eight lead changes.
With A&M-Commerce holding a 29-28 lead with 40 seconds remaining in the half. Tarleton State would knock down a jumper, taking the 30-29 lead, and then appeared to take a 32-29 lead at the half as the Texans hit a jumper as time expired. But upon further review, the shot came after the clock had expired, giving Tarleton State the one-point halftime advantage.
A&M-Commerce's achilles heel all season has been a tendency to give up an extended run to their opponents, and Wednesday night was no different. Trailing 34-33 to the Texans, the Lions gave up a 10-0 run to Tarleton State over a three-minute span, falling behind by double digits at 44-33 with 14:25 remaining in the game.
The Lions pulled to within six at 44-38, only to give up an 8-0 run to Tarleton State to fall into a 14-point deficit at 52-38 with 11:33 remaining. The Texans matched that lead at 65-51 with 3:29 remaining and appeared poised to run away with the victory.
But the Lions had one last charge left in them. A&M-Commerce used a 15-6 over the next three minutes, highlighted by King's first three-pointer of the season, a pair of lay-ups from Whitley and three crucial free throws from Arriola. Unfortunately it was a case of too little, too late as Tarleton State was able to hold off A&M-Commerce to take the 73-69 decision, winning its fourth-straight over the Lions.
Tarleton State, which leads the nation in team defense, held the Lions to just 39 percent shooting from the floor (23-of-59), including 27.8 percent from three-point range (5-of-18). The Texans hit 47.5 percent on its own end of the floor (28-of-59), including 9-of-30 in three-pointers (30.0 percent). But the game seemed to have swung on the boards as Tarleton State outrebounded A&M-Commerce 45-31 while outscoring the Lions in the paint 44-26.
Fabian Wilson paced the Texans with 27 points and six rebounds while Wes Dipprey just missed a double-double, finishing with 12 points and nine rebounds. Shedrick Haynes posted 11 points for the Texans while Warren Webb added six points and seven rebounds.
The Lions will get another chance at the Texans as the two teams will meet up on the back end of their home-and-home series Saturday when the series shifts to Stephenville. A&M-Commerce will be trying to keep Tarleton State head coach Lonn Reismann from reaching his 500th career victory as the teams tip off at 7 p.m. from Wisdom Gym. Fans can listen live online at KETR.org with live stats available at LionAthletics.com.