TSU men win Division I debut over Dallas Christian
STEPHENVILLE – Tarleton men's basketball made its long-awaited NCAA Division I debut under first-year head coach Billy Gillispie on Wednesday night in Wisdom Gym.
The Texans came away with a 103-48 rout over Dallas Christian on the historical night in Stephenville, led by a school-record 38 turnovers forced by the Texan defense. Of the 38 turnovers, 27 were steals, which also set a new school record.
"First games are always hard, especially when you have 15 new guys and we certainly looked like it," said Gillispie, who won his first game as a Division I head coach since 2012. "But it was a fun night. I'm proud of our guys, they played hard enough to win. We have a chance to get better and we certainly will. You can only win one game and lose one game when you play and we won one tonight, which was our main goal."
Tahj Small posted a game-high 18 points, nine rebounds and four steals in his Tarleton debut. Small, a junior from Durham, North Carolina, was one of 13 Texans to score in the game, along with four players in double figures.
It was the eighth straight season-opening win for the Texans, as they improve to 19-2 since 2000 in season openers. Gillispie also improves to 8-1 in season openers at the Division I level.
The first basket as a Division I program came from Heri Ngalamulume to give the Texans a 2-0 lead and they never let up, especially in the paint where the Texans had 52 points on the night which led to shooting 49 percent from the floor. Ngalamulume finished with nine points on 4-6 shooting. The Texans built a double-digit lead, 12-2, in the first four minutes of the game, highlighted by a fast-break dunk from freshman Joey Madimba. The lead blossomed to 20 in the first half on a layup from the lone senior for the Texans, Jonathan Jackson, who posted 15 points, eight rebounds and a game-high five steals.
Tarleton led 53-28 at halftime where they shot 43% from the field and forced Dallas Christian into 21 turnovers.
The Texans opened the second half on a 15-0 run over the first three and a half minutes to lead by 40. Javontae Hopkins, one of two returners for the Texans, had six points, an assist and a steal during the 15-point stretch. Hopkins finished with 13 points, three rebounds and four steals off the bench.
Tarleton would add a 14-0 run and a 14-4 run over the final minutes to take its biggest lead at 55, which held for the final score and the victory.
"It was the first night and it's a lot of player's first time in a college game, much less their first Division I basketball game," added Gillispie. "You have to take the good with the bad. We'll get to practice these next few days and come Saturday, I'll bet we're a lot better."
Sophomore guard Cadarius Baggett posted 10 points, five assists and four steals in a starting role. Freddy Hicks, Shamir Bogues, and Konstantin Dotsenko each added seven points in their debuts. Bogues filled up the stat sheet with eight rebounds, five assists and five steals.
Rounding out the Tarleton scoring efforts were Madimba with 3 points, and Sam Sparks, Shakur Daniel and Tanner Ford each with two points.
Tarleton will take on Howard Payne on Saturday, Nov. 28 at 6 p.m. in Wisdom Gym.