By BRAD KEITH
BARTLESVILLE, Okla. - Corin Henry and Effran Bryant combined for 47 points and Tarleton State cruised into the championship game of the Lone Star Conference tournament by thumping West Texas A&M 82-68 at Bruin Fieldhouse Friday night.
Henry scored 25 points including 20 in the second half, and Bryant added 22, marking the first time the Texans have had two 20-point scorers in the same game since Feb. 10, 2007. Bryant was part of that 20-20 effort as well, pouring in 23 points in an 81-80 win at Abilene Christian.
Henry also had eight rebounds, three assists and three steals in 34 minutes while Bryant dished out five assists, grabbed four boards and stole the ball the three times in 33 minutes. They combined for just three turnovers and the Texans gave the ball away only 12 times as a team.
Tarleton (23-6) led by as many as 20 points in the second half on their way to sweeping three games from the Buffaloes (16-13) this season. The Texans won 69-56 in Canyon on Jan. 23 and 56-52 in Stephenville on Feb. 13.
The win very likely punched the Texans' ticket to next week's South Central regional tournament. They were sixth in this week's regional rankings and three teams ranked ahead of them have already suffered losses in their respective conference tournaments.
Tarleton meets defending LSC champ Midwestern State for a third time this season in Saturday's 7 p.m. championship game. The Mustangs defeated the Texans 66-49 in Stephenville and 72-69 in Wichita Falls during LSC South play.
The loss ends the season for WTAMU, which entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed from the South Division and upset North champ Central Oklahoma in the opening round.
"I have a lot of respect for West Texas A&M and for coach (Rick) Cooper. He's one of the tremendous coaches in our league and across the nation," Tarleton head coach Lonn Reisman said. "I just thought we had an excellent game plan and did a tremendous job of executing it."
Tarleton, which never trailed, scored seven of the first nine second-half points to turn an eight-point halftime lead into a 39-26 advantage.
It was still a 13-point lead before the Texans scored seven straight - five of them by Henry - to make it 51-31 with 14:29 left.
WT responded with its strongest push of the night - hitting their first and second 3-point field goals of the game to touch off a 13-1 surge that cut its deficit to 52-44 with 9:19 still to go.
The Tarleton lead was eight again moments later before Henry made what both coaches called the play of the night. He drained a 3-ball while being fouled and added the free throw for a four-point play to make it 57-45.
"That was a big turning point," Henry said. "Good teams are going to make runs at you. It's all about how you react to it."
Tarleton kept pouring it on, getting an alley-oop dunk from Jeremiah Wilson with an assist from Henry to move ahead by 17. Wilson then knocked down a pair of free throws for a comfortable 71-52 advantage with just 2:59 left.
The Buffaloes hit a flurry of late 3-pointers, but never got closer than nine because the Texans hit 11 of 12 free throws in the final two minutes. They finished the night 35-43 (81.4 percent) at the line after hitting just 62 percent in their opening-round victory over Texas A&M-Commerce.
Tarleton got off to a quick start as Bryant scored the first eight points of the game and went on to net 13 in the opening half.
"It was a big confidence builder for me to start off hot after a couple mediocre games," said Bryant. "We were able to start well and put it on cruise control."
WT was turnover prone in the first 20 minutes, giving the ball away 11 times. The Texans scored 11 points off those turnovers.
Tarleton scored six straight points to lead 32-18 with 2:07 remaining in the half, but the Buffs answered with a 6-0 run of their own to trail by just eight at halftime.
LaDarius Hall scored 10 first-half points to help keep WTAMU in the game.
Hall had just four points after halftime to finish with 14. Jacquiese Holcombe also scored 14 and Alex Davis added 13 for WT. All three double-figure scorers came off the bench for the Buffs, who picked up 45 points from their subs and only 23 from their starters.
Joining Henry and Bryant in double figures for Tarleton were Ogunoye with 11 to go with seven boards, and Devon Hills with 10 points in addition to four boards and three steals.
Reisman is looking forward to the championship against Midwestern, which is ranked No. 6 in the nation and No. 2 in the region.
"Midwestern has been the class of the league this year. We've had the opportunity to play them twice and we've come up short both times," Reisman said. "We know we're the underdogs going into the game, but anything can happen."
Midwestern, which won the regular season title in the LSC South, has won two of the last three conference championships.
Tarleton is making its first appearance in the championship game since 2006. The Texans have not won a league crown since 2004.
"This is really big for me," said Bryant, a four-year letterman. "I've never been to a conference championship game. This is far as we've gone here in Bartlesville."
Buffs Fall to Tarleton State, 82-68, in LSC Semi’s
Late second-half WT run not enough to overcome Texans
Bartlesville, Okla. – West Texas A&M saw its season come to a close as they dropped an 82-68 decision to Tarleton State in the semifinals of the Lone Star Conference Championship, Friday night at Bruin Arena in Bartlesville , Okla.
WTAMU wrapped up its 18th appearance in the LSC Tournament with the Buffaloes’ 12th trip to the semifinals. WTAMU is now 29-12 all-time at the event, holding the conference record for most tournament wins.
WTAMU, which dropped a pair of games to Tarleton State during the regular season, concludes its season with an overall record of 16-13 overall, while TSU improves to 23-6 overall and will face Midwestern State tomorrow night for the LSC Championship.
“It’s always difficult to lose your final game,” said WT head coach Rick Cooper. “But I’m very proud of this team, especially our seniors.
“ Tarleton State came out more aggressive and put is in a position we didn’t want to be in,” Cooper continued. “They are a very good defensive team. We had a very good start the other night against Central Oklahoma , but we couldn’t replicate that tonight.”
Tarleton opened a double-digit margin in the game’s first 13 minutes as the Buffs committed 10 turnovers and hit just two of 12 field goal attempts.
The Buffs rallied late, hitting eight of their next 11 field goals, with LaDarius Hall making four-of-six during that spurt, to pull within 32-24 at the half.
Tarleton State opened the second half with a 10-4 run, to go up 42-28. The lead grew to 20 points, 51-31, at the 14:29 mark.
The Buffs came back, posting a 13-1 run, capped by Jacquiese Holcombe’s three-point play, to pull within single digits, 52-44, with 9:55 remaining.
Leading by eight, the Texans stopped the run when Corin Henry was fouled while nailing a long-range three-pointer. His four-point play put the Texans up by a 57-45 margin.
After TSU had stretched the lead to 71-57, WT’s Alex Davis nailed a pair of three’s and Joe Mincey hit one from the left corner to pull the Buffs to within nine points and just under two minutes remaining.
“We made a run with some ‘three’s’ late, but I don’t think we were ever in a position to take control of the game,” Cooper said. “ Tarleton State is just a very, very solid team. We were never in a position to control the game.
Holcombe led the Buffaloes with a team-high 14 points, nearly double his season average. This is the second time this season that Holcombe has led WTAMU in scoring, also doing so with a season-high 17 points in a 69-62 loss at Northeastern State on Jan. 7. This is the ninth time this season that Holcombe, the Buffaloes’ second-leading rebounder on the season, has topped the double-digit scoring mark.
LaDarius Hall also finished with 14 points, while Alex Davis also reached double-digits with his 13 point outing. Bijan Dotson, making his final appearance in a WT uniform, led the Buffs with a team-high eight rebounds.
Nick Burns concludes his WT career ranked fifth on the career three-point list, while Dotson ends his playing days ranked fifth in career field-goal percentage. Joe Mincey, who will return for his senior year in 2010-11, made 140 free throws this year, the sixth among WT single-season leaders.
“I think this team grew a great deal over the season,” Cooper continued. “Early, we lost some games we never should have lost. But late, if you give us a few points sprinkled in here and there, we may very well have been contending for a regional tourney berth.”
Associate A.D./Media Relations
West Texas A&M
#6 Mustangs charge past Northeastern State, 74-64
BARTLESVILLE, Okla. - Facing their largest second half deficit of the season in the Lone Star Conference Championship semfinals, Midwestern State didn't panic.
The Mustangs just did what they've done all year - they won.
"I can't say enough about our team's will to win basketball games," MSU coach Grant McCasland said. "These guys continue to find ways to win."
Count Northeastern State witness as MSU peeled off an 18-3 run in the final 3 1/2 minutes of the game to roll to a 74-64 win to advance to its third LSC title games in the last four seasons.
The Mustangs face the winner of the Tarleton State/West Texas A&M semifinal game Saturday night at Bruin Field House. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
Senior guards Jason Ebie and Chris Hagan answered the call to combine for 27 points in the second half after the Mustangs fell behind 48-34 when NSU junior guard Dominique Gaines connected on a free throw to give the RiverHawks a 48-34 advantage with 16:44 to play.
"We knew they wanted to entice us into taking 3s early in the shot clock," McCasland said. "We finally bought into attacking with patience."
Ebie kickstarted a 10-0 Midwestern run with a nice drive and dish to Charlie Logan at the 11:18 mark for a traditional three-point play.
Hagan then took over for seven-straight points on three-straight driving layups including a three-point play of his own to knot the game at 51-51 with 9:10 to play.
The RiverHawks would push the lead out to 59-53 on a 28-foot 3-pointer by Gaines with 4:31 to play.
That's when the Mustangs got dialed in as Anthony Moore canned his second trey of the night and followed with a layup, then Ebie banged in back-to-back treys to give the Mustangs its first lead since the 10:34 mark of the first half at 64-41 with 2:25 to play.
Ebie finished with a career-high 22 points which included four 3-pointers to go along with four rebounds and four assists.
"Some games I'm called upon to score, some games I'm called upon to distribute and play defense," Ebie said. "I got some open looks and thank the Lord I made them."
Hagan added 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while Moore finished with a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Antoine Branch paced the RiverHawks with 19 points, while Jason Jones and Marlon Burnett had 14 points each.
The Mustangs limited Gaines, who is NSU's top threat, to 10 points before fouling out in 28 minutes with six rebounds and 10 turnovers.
Midwestern State improved to 27-2, while the RiverHawks closed the campaign at 20-9.
Midwestern State claimed its eighth-straight victory in Lone Star Conference postseason play and to 16-5 in nine tournament appearances.
Midwestern State improved to 13-8 all time against the RiverHawks and to 2-1 against NSU in postseason play.
Midwestern State advanced to the Lone Star Conference title game for the fifth time. MSU has claimed titles in the previous four showings in 1999, 2000, 2007 and 2009.
Midwestern State will try to win back-to-back LSC championships for the second time since it joined the league for the 1996-97 season. The Mustangs are the only team to win back-to-back championships since the league went to the current divisional format.