EDMOND, Okla. - The No. 21 Tarleton State Texans were on the verge of taking their first road win for about 35 of the 40 minutes of their game against the Central Oklahoma Bronchos Thursday.
But that didn’t cut it, and the Bronchos blew the game open late as the Texans struggled to find their shot. UCO remained perfect at home, cruising to a 71-54 victory.
“We had our opportunities tonight,” head coach Lonn Reisman said, referring to runs that brought the Texans within a few baskets.
But turnovers, paired with poor shooting, did the Texans in. Tarleton had 21 turnovers to UCO’s 13, and the Bronchos made their visitors pay for their miscues.
Anthony Brown, who Reisman called one of the “premier players in (the Lone Star Conference),” was unstoppable for the Bronchos, scoring a game-high 31 points on 12 of 15 shooting. He also had 12 rebounds.
“We had no answer for him down low,” Reisman said.
Sam Belt added 13 points.
Tarleton’s John Davis collected another double-double, picking up a team-high 16 points and 12 rebounds. Jeremy Gilbert was next with 13 points, but hit just one of his seven three-point attempts.
Shooting as been Tarleton’s “Achilles heel” all season, Reisman said.
The Texans struggled against the Bronchos’ full-court press early, but managed to stay close. Effran Bryant gave the visitors a lead after he hit a three-pointer that made it 11-9.
Soon after, though, Tarleton went cold, and the Bronchos went on an 11-1 run. Much of that was a result of Tarleton’s nine turnovers in the game’s first seven minutes.
Terrence Gamble had a tip-in following a miss by Davis to end Tarleton’s scoring drought. Soon after Davis hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to cut the Broncho lead to three, 20-17.
The Bronchos answered with a jumper from Jason Arbet. After another offensive cold snap, Rich Francis and Jeremy Gilbert each sank a pair of free throws to make it 24-21, UCO.
Brown had a layup for the Bronchos, Bryant made one of two free throws for the Texans, and Brown scored inside again.
Gilbert’s jumper cut the lead back to four, 28-24,with just under seven minutes left in the half.
After a foul by Robert Hartfield, Arbet made one of two from the line, and UCO hit a quick three-pointer after collecting an offensive rebound. The shot gave them their biggest lead to that point, 34-26.
But Tarleton closed the half with a 4-0 run, as Davis had a layup and Hartfield had a putback to make it 34-30, UCO, at the break.
The Bronchos opened the second half with four points from Terry Tucker. A layup from Dan Eichel made it 38-32, but Brown scored on the next trip down. Brian Walker added a bucket to give the Bronchos a 10-point lead, 42-32.
Gilbert had a pair of fast break scores to make it 44-37, Bronchos, but Brown had an alley-oop dunk. Gilbert hit a three-pointer off a pass from Tanner Morgan that cut UCO’s lead to six, 46-40.
Brown and Arbet wouldn’t allow the Texans to get much closer than that, although a layup from Davis cut the lead to four halfway through the second, 52-48.
Layups from Belt and Brown book-ended a free throw from Mike Daniels, creating a seven-point deficit for Tarleton, 56-49. Belt then hit a three-pointer to stretch the Broncho lead to 10 with 6:45 left in the game.
Davis hit a long jumper from the corner to cut the Broncho lead to eight, but as he did all night, Brown answered with a layup.
The Texans couldn’t cut into the 10-point lead, and UCO pulled away with a layup and a three-pointer from Walker on consecutive Broncho possessions, giving the home team a 71-54 win.
The Texans will continue their search for their first road win of the season at 4 p.m. Saturday versus Northeastern State.
The game will be broadcast locally on 98.5 FM.