Eric Cazenave must feel right at home on the road at Wisdom Gym.
Two seasons ago Cazenave drilled a three-point bomb from the top of the key with four seconds remaining to lift Central Oklahoma to a 77-76 win in the South Central Region championship game.
Tuesday night, he returned to Wisdom, leading all scorers with 19 points as the Bronchos (3-2) handed Tarleton (4-1) its first loss of the season in a 76-72 thriller to open Lone Star Conference crossover play.
"This is a tough place to play, you have to have a great effort to come here and win," Cazenave said of Wisdom Gym. "It's always a great atmosphere."
Cazenave scored eight points during a 20-6 Central Oklahoma run after Tarleton led by 12 in the early stages of the second half. He hit from deep to make it 53-49, then was fouled while attempting another bomb and hit all three free throws to knot the score at 58-58. He finished the run moments later with a short jumper to put UCO on top with 5:14 remaining.
Tarleton tied the score four times down the stretch but never took another lead.
Cazenave said the full court press that helped UCO come from behind was the same defensive look the Bronchos used to overcome a 15-point deficit in the 2008 regional final.
"Coach told us we had to pick it up on defense or we were going to lose," Cazenave said. "We used the same type of pressure we used (in the regional) and it worked for us again."
The senior was 6-9 from the floor including 2-3 from outside the arc. He was a perfect 5-5 at the charity stripe and also dished out three assists and snagged three rebounds.
Tarleton outscored UCO 17-4 in the opening six-plus minutes of the second half to erase a one-point deficit at the break.
Shane Carroll brought the Bronchos back to life with a three-ball at the 13:18 mark to touch off the big UCO run over the next eight-plus minutes.
"We have a young team that is still learning to play at this level," Tarleton coach Lonn Reisman said. "We have to learn how to put a game away against a great team. That's a great team we played (Tuesday)."
Jeremiah Wilson, who posted a double-double with 12 points and a dozen rebounds, scored in the paint to tie it at 60-60, but Cazenave's final two freebies gave UCO the edge again with 4:28 left.
It was even again at 62-62 before the teams traded three-point baskets - UCO's by Carroll, Tarleton's by Effran Bryant - to make it 65-65.
The score was then tied once more at 68-68 with 2:23 remaining, but Tarleton hit just one field goal - a three-ball by Devon Hills - the rest of the way.
UCO was 6-8 at the free throw line in the final 49 seconds to seal the win. No foul shots were bigger than the two Chris Rhymes sunk to give the Bronchos a two-possession advantage with 2.12 seconds showing on the clock.
The Bronchos outscored Tarleton 27-15 at the free throw line, 30-18 in the paint and 8-0 in fast break points.
Both teams hit 11 treys, with UCO shooting 50 percent (11-22) from downtown and Tarleton hitting 45.8 percent (11-24). The Bronchos hit 50 percent (11-22) from the field in the second half while Tarleton shot just 33.3 percent (11-33).
"We missed several easy chip shots that just killed us," Reisman said. "You have to hit those in a game like this when you're in a possession-by-possession battle."
Cazenave and three other Bronchos - Dauntae Williams (15), Carroll (13) and Blake Livingston (11) - reached double figures in the scoring column. Williams also had eight rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals.
Tarleton was led by Corin Henry with 14 points and five assists. Joining Henry and Wilson in double figures was Bryant, who had 13 to go with three assists. Chris Harrell and Donta Smith both scored nine.
There's no rest for the weary as the Texans complete their six-game season-opening home stand tonight against Northeastern State. The men tip off at 8 p.m. following a 6 p.m. women's battle.