The No. 21 Tarleton State Texans (10-3) will be searching for a “breakthrough” win in the middle of their “long, grueling road trip” to Oklahoma this week.
Head coach Lonn Reisman said games at Central Oklahoma (9-4) tonight and Northeastern State (5-8) Saturday would be tough.
“Any time you go over that river (into Oklahoma), you’ve got to be really good,” he said.
Tonight’s game tips off at 8 in Edmond, Okla., while Saturday’s game begins at 4 p.m. in Tahlequah, Okla.
The Texans have lost all three of their road games this season, but have been perfect at home. The team has two more tough road games next week, at No. 23 Texas A&M-Kingsville Jan. 17 and at West Texas A&M Jan. 24.
“No one has done us any favors this year (in terms of scheduling),” Reisman said.
The Texans “have shown some glimpses” of what they can become in their home wins, Reisman said, particularly in big wins over Findlay and Monday’s victory over No. 14 Southeastern Oklahoma State.
Now, they must take that kind of intensity along with them on long bus ride north.
The Central Oklahoma Bronchos are led by senior forward Anthony Brown and junior guard/forward Sam Belt, “two of the premier players in the (Lone Star Conference) North,” Reisman said.
Brown is the team’s leading scorer (20.9 points per game) and rebounder (6.5). He’s the conference’s fourth-leading scorer, with an average four-tenths of a point better than Tarleton standout John Davis.
Belt, meanwhile, gives the Bronchos a presence on the perimeter. At 6-5, he’s taller than many guards, but also hits 34 percent from beyond the arc. Belt averages 16.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.
The Bronchos are given a boost off the bench by another 6-7 forward, sophomore Terry Tucker. He averages just over 12 points per game, and gives Central Oklahoma another big body to match up with Tarleton’s posts.
Like the Texans, the Bronchos have not yet lost at home this season. They’re riding a two-game winning streak, including an 87-78 win at Eastern New Mexico.
Kenneth Cage is still out with a knee injury, but he is off of crutches and Reisman said his rehabilitation is going well. Cage could be back on the court as soon as Tarleton’s game at West Texas A&M.
“He was one of our heart and soul guys,” Reisman said, the sort of vocal leader a young team needs.
The Texans are looking for someone else to provide that sort of spark on the court, and Reisman cited redshirt freshman Tanner Morgan’s effort in the win over the Savage Storm.
On a play late in the game, Morgan’s crashed into the scorer’s table at midcourt, hurtling after a loose ball.
“I’ve been looking for that type of intensity,” Reisman said, adding that Morgan plays “for the team and not himself.”
That sort of hustle and desire must propel the Texans throughout what Reisman called their “four treacherous trips.”
“We have got to find a road win,” he said.
The game will be broadcast locally on 98.5 FM.