Anyone questioning No. 11 Tarleton State's strength of schedule will be quickly hushed after this weekend.
After earning its first 8-0 start in 52 years as a senior college and winning seven of those games by at least 17 points, the Texans hit the road for the first time and expect two big tests.
Tarleton faces Great Northwest Athletic Conference powers Central Washington and No. 5 Western Washington in The South Point Holiday Hoops Classic at South Point Casino in Las Vegas Saturday and Sunday. The Texans meet CWU (4-4) at 1 p.m. (CST) Saturday, then battle WWU (8-0) at 5 p.m. (CST) Sunday.
Both are unfamiliar foes for Tarleton, which lost to CWU 70-61 in the schools' only meeting in 2002, also in las Vegas. Tarleton and WWU have never played.
The Texans are coming off an 89-83 win over McMurry Tuesday night. There were 22 ties and 18 lead changes. Tarleton led for good after a Tashawn Mabry 3-point shot made it 79-76 with 3:13 left. The Texans made their final 12 free throws including eight in the final minute. There were 59 fouls and 80 free throws, with the Texans going 41-54 at the line. Mabry scored 20 off the bench to lead four double-digit scorers. Tarleton's reserves have scored 56 points in each of their last two games.
Central Washington lost back-to-back contests before drubbing Quest 111-59 Monday. CWU is led by Mark McLaughlin's 25.7 points per game, which ranks third in the nation and first in the GNAC. He is one of four Wildcats averaging double digits.
Western Washington reached its lofty ranking by topping previous No. 1 Metro State 72-69 in a classic-style event on Nov. 30 at WWU's home court. The Vikings, who have yet to play a road game, most recently defeated Thompson Rivers 99-74 on Tuesday. Four WWU starters average double figures, led by Richard Woodworth's 16.8 points per game. Austin Bragg averages 15.5.
Both CWU and WWU are solid from the field, shooting 46.8 and 49.7 percent, respectively. Tarleton hit better than 50 percent in each of its first seven games, but knocked down only 37.3 percent - including 19 percent from the arc - against McMurry. The Texans, who have scored more than 75 points in eight straight games for the first time in 16 years, are shooting 52.1 percent for the season.
Tarleton is led by senior point guard Chuck Guy with 16.4 points, 6.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game. De'Andre Uphurch averages 14 points, Tashawn Mabry 11.3, Mohammed Lee 11 and Davene Carter 9.8.