If you're going to make it 26 years in any business, you have to adapt to changes with the times.
Lonn Reisman is in his 26th year coaching at Tarleton State, and a big reason his Texans are 10-0 for the first time in 52 years as a senior college is his staff's ability to adapt to a rule change since the end of his 25th season in Stephenville.
The new, more strict hand-checking rule in college basketball is leading to foul calls in droves. Rather than be victimized by the rule defensively, or by not preparing for how officials would interpret the change, Reisman and staff were proactive. They went to a faster-paced offense, with more aggressive drives to the basket by point guard Chuck Guy and others.
The results are clear. Tarleton is shooting more free throws, outscoring opponents by a wider margin and have run Reisman's victory total at the school to 540.
The Texans have attempted 309 free throws through 10 games after attempting 243 through 10 last season. The difference of 6.6 free throws per game may not appear glaring, but because the Texans are hitting a Lone Star Conference best 75.1 percent from the stripe as opposed to 63.4 through 10 gams a year ago, they are scoring 7.7 more points per game from there. They are outscoring opponents by an average of 10.6 points from the line.
With two victories coming by single digits, it could be argued that shooting more free throws - and making them at a higher clip - is the difference between Tarleton being 10-0 and off to its best start since the 1920s, and being 8-2 and off to just another decent start under its proven veteran coach.
Guy has been a monster at the line, knocking down 59 of 64 for 92.2 percent. That's a whopping 10.9 percent better than anyone else in the Lone Star Conference attempting at least 2.5 free throws per game. Guy was 13-13 in the No. 11 Texans' 86-69 thumping of No. 5 Western Washington in Las Vegas Sunday. That came after he was 6-6 in the final moments of each of the two previous games, a critical stat considering Tarleton beat McMurry by just six and Central Washington by just four.
And it doesn't end with Guy. He's one of six members of Tarleton's regular 10-man rotation who is shooting above 70 percent at the line. Eight regulars are shooting a better percentage than the team had through 10 games last year. De'Andre Upchurch is third in the LSC at 80 percent, Tashawn Mabry hits 79.4 and Emmanuel Andrews 78.6.
The Texans, who won last season's LSC Tournament and returned four starters from its third straight NCAA playoff team, are the favorite to win the league's regular season title, according to preseason polling of head coaches, sports information directors and designated media.
Conference play begins Jan. 4, with Tarleton's first LSC game coming on Jan. 8 against Angelo State at Wisdom Gym. The Texans do play on the fourth, but its a non-conference game against South Dakota Mines, also at home.
Tarleton, which is hitting 51 percent from the field and 40.2 percent from the arc, doesn't need charity to win games. But as long as the Texans get to the stripe, they appear to have the arsenal to win them in droves, and usually by a wide margin.