No. 5 Tarleton State (25-2) had three scorers reach double figures by halftime and cruised past West Texas A&M (10-17) to begin defense of its Lone Star Conference Basketball Championship Wednesday night.
Tashawn Mabry came off the bench to pour in a career-best 24, De'Andre Upchurch scored 22 and LSC Player of the Year Chuck Guy added 16 while dealing seven assists as the Texans backed up their top seed with a 89-70 victory over the eighth-seeded Buffs at Allen Event Center.
It's Tarleton's fifth straight opening-round win in the Lone Star Conference Championship. The Texans are 10-3 in conference tournament contests since their last opening-round loss in 2009.
"We were really looking to play this game like we were playing a few weeks ago, and we saw that tonight," said Tarleton head coach and LSC Coach of the Year Lonn Reisman, whose club was coming off just its second loss of the year in last Saturday's regular-season finale at Texas A&M-Commerce. "It was very important for us to do that."
Tarleton shot 57.7 percent in the opening half and 52.7 percent for the game. It's the 14th time this season the Texans have shot 50 percent or better. Their 89 points are the most by either team in 45 all-time meetings.
Mabry was especially accurate, going 9-11 from the floor including 3-5 from outside the arc. He and Upchurch combined for seven of the team's nine 3-pointers, and with Mabry leading the way the Tarleton bench outscored the Buffs' 38-15.
"In our offense we have to have somebody who can bring spacing to the floor, and he brings that," Reisman said of Mabry. "We didn't have a 3-point shooter at the 4-position last year, but when Tashawn goes up, he's about as pure a guy I've seen who is 6-7."
Mabry says for him it started on the defensive end.
"We came out with more energy than we did on Saturday, and for me personally, I was focused more on the defensive end and that picked me up on the offensive end," said Mabry.
The Texans limited the Buffs to 37 percent from the field including only 29.4 percent from the arc. Tarleton had all seven blocked shots in the game and eight of the 12 steals.
The Texans had eight total turnovers, but most came late with the game out of reach. They gave the ball away just twice before halftime.
West Texas A&M was led by three double-digit scorers - Keon Pledger with 17, Tez Dumars 15 and Antjuan Ball 12 along with a game-high eight rebounds.
Tarleton turned a 12-point halftime lead into a commanding 73-53 margin on a 3-point play by Mabry with 8:52 left. The Texans led by as many as 22 moments later and were ahead by at least 18 the rest of the way.
The Texans overcame a slow offensive start and took the lead for good on a 3-pointer by Upchurch that completed a 7-0 run and made it 19-16 with 10:20 left in the opening half. He struck again moments later, hitting a deep three from the right wing with one on the shot clock.
"I know if I just run to the right spots, Chuck and the guys on my team will find me," said Upchurch, who averages 21.4 over Tarleton's last nine games. "All I have to do is knock them down."
The lead grew to eight on a top of the key 3-ball drained by Mabry, and to 11 when Guy scored five straight on a triple and a runner.
It was 45-34 after a pair of Guy free throws with 1:19 remaining in the half, touching off a parade to the foul stripe by both teams. Beginning with that pair by Guy, the Texans were 5-6 from the line over the final 80 seconds of the half, and WT was 3-4. Tarleton led 49-37 at the intermission.
Tarleton is in tournament semifinal play against A&M-Commerce or Eastern New Mexico at 8:30 p.m. Friday. The championship game is set for 5:30 p.m. Saturday.