ALLEN - Tournament MVP De'Andre Upchurch made it rain with 27 points and No. 5 Tarleton State cut down the nets for the second straight year at the Allen Event Center Saturday evening, knocking off arch-rival Midwestern State 71-65.
It's the third ever LSC tourney title for Tarleton (27-2), which also defeated No. 24 Midwestern (22-7) in the final last season and have reached the championship game in five straight years. The Mustangs were playing in their third straight final.
The biggest shot of the game came from who else, Upchurch. LSC Player of the Year Chuck Guy penetrated the MSU defense, and as soon as the Mustangs collapsed around him, he kicked the ball out to his backcourt mate for a deep 3-ball from the left wing that made it 68-62 with only 20 seconds left. Upchurch ended up on his backside sliding toward the Tarleton bench, which exploded in celebration as the shot hit nothing but net.
"When Chuck started driving I knew if they helped down on him at all that he would find me," Upchurch said. "I just got to the right spot and was ready to shoot. I knew it was going in."
Guy had eight points, six rebounds and five assists and played more than 39 of the 40 minutes. Davene Carter doubled up with 12 points and 12 rebounds while slamming down two second half alley-oops, one from Guy and the other from Upchurch. Guy and Carter, who also blocked two shots, each joined Upchurch on the all-tournament team.
Carter was most proud of his rebounding effort.
"We got out-rebounded when we lost to them at home, and that was my main job tonight was to get rebounds," Carter said. "I knew I needed to have more than just three or four rebounds for us to win."
Midwestern trimmed a 10-point halftime deficit at the intermission to one on a jumper by DeJuan Plummer with 2:20 left. But a fadeaway jumper by Monzaigo Williams of the Mustangs went halfway down and rimmed back out at the 1:28 mark, and Carter grabbed the biggest board of the night for Tarleton.
Damion Clemons was fouled with 1:01 on the clock and hit both free throws, touching off a finishing surge that had the Texans scoring nine of the game's final 12 points. The only points from Midwestern during the stretch came on a meaningless 3-pointer by JaMichael Rivers that made it 70-65 with four seconds left.
Emmanuel Andrews was fouled with 1.6 seconds to go and hit one of two to finalize the score.
Williams made the all-tournament team from Midwestern. He had 18 points and nine rebounds, with 12 of his points coming in the first half. Xavier Blackburn of MSU was also selected for the all-tourney roster based primarily on his performances in the opening two rounds. He had just five points and five boards in the final.
Neither team approached their shooting averages against the other's stingy defensive efforts. Tarleton shot 39.6 percent from the floor including 3-18 from outside the arc. MSU shot 38.8 percent including 40 percent from deep.
Turnovers made a difference as Tarleton had just 10 and MSU 16, thanks largely to nine steals by the Texans and only four by the Mustangs. Tarleton also blocked four shots to Midwestern's one.
Eddie D'Haiti had 13 points for MSU and Damion Clemons 10 off the bench for Tarleton.
Tarleton led 40-30 at the break because Upchurch exploded for 18 first-half points with a mix of jumpers and runners.
Tarleton trailed 21-17 before taking flight with a 16-1 run to take a lead it would never relinquish.
Upchurch scored an old-fashioned 3-point play to touch off the run, during which he scored six. The Texans were ahead 31-22 before Williams finally slowed the bleeding with a pair of free throws.
Tarleton led 40-28 before a halftime buzzer beater by Patrick Smith. He was fouled but missed the free throw.
It was Tarleton's lowest-scoring game of the season by a point. They scored 72 points in a win at Angelo State on Feb. 12.
No. 24 MSU had won 11 straight games entering the final. They won their last nine of the regular season, including a 77-75 overtime victory at Tarleton, to share the LSC's regular season championship with the Texans.
The teams are 13-13 over their last 26 meetings. The average margin was just two points in the previous 25 confrontations.
Both teams are preparing for next week's South Central Region tournament, which appears set to be hosted by No. 1 Metropolitan State in Denver starting next Saturday. Official selections and regional sights will be announced at 9:30 p.m. tonight.
"We just have to watch film, practice hard and get prepared," said Carter. "We trust our coaches and we know if we focus and learn the game plan and are ready to go out and play, we'll be good."