Texans hold off late SAGU charge for second straight win

TSU Sports Information

STEPHENVILLE – Tarleton led by as many as 26 points before holding off a late second-half charge to secure an 81-75 win over Southwestern Assemblies of God on Wednesday inside Wisdom Gym. 

The victory was the second in as many days for Tarleton (3-7) and third at home this season. 

The Texans' connected at a season-best 53 percent clip (31-58) from the field and dished out a season-high 21 assists. Tarleton's 31 field goals were its most in a single game this season, surpassing its 28 makes in Tuesday's 84-65 victory over Dallas Christian. 

Montre Gipson scored 29 points on 13-18 shooting to pace the Texans' offensive charge as they held off a late second-half charge to secure an 81-75 win over Southwestern Assemblies of God on Wednesday inside Wisdom Gym.

Montre Gipson scored 29 points on 13-18 shooting to pace the Texans' offensive charge all evening. The senior tallied 16 of his points in the second half. His 13 made field goals were an individual single-game for any player in Tarleton's Division I era. Gipson's scoring figure was one point shy of his career high in points scored. 

Gipson also finished with six points, four rebounds and four steals. 

Tahj Small

Fellow senior Tahj Small recorded the first double-double of the 2021-22 campaign and third of his Texan career. Small finished with 13 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. 

While Gipson took over offensively in the second half, it was sophomore Freddy Hicks starring in the game's opening 20 minutes. The 6-6 swingman scored 15 of his 16 points in the first half on the strength of a 3-5 mark from downtown. Hicks matched his season high in points scored and also added a pair of blocks and steals at the other end of the hardwood. 

Tarleton's offensive outburst was overdue and well-timed.  

The Texans entered Wednesday's nonconference affair having shot below 40 percent in five straight ballgames.  

Despite its NAIA affiliation, SAGU is no pushover. The Lions (8-1) are ranked No. 6 in the NAIA Coaches' Poll and advanced to the semifinals of the NAIA National Tournament last season. A trip down memory lane gave Tarleton another reason to be wary of the Lions. SAGU stunned the Texans 73-60 inside Wisdom Gym in 2012 in the teams' most recent meeting. 

And through the first five minutes, it certainly appeared as though Tarleton was in for a dogfight. SAGU forced three Texan turnovers to jump out to a 7-4 lead at the first media timeout. 

But Tarleton responded with its most efficient, decisive offensive surge of the winter.  

Five straight points from Hicks and a fast break flush by Shamir Bogues fueled a 7-0 run over the ensuing 90 seconds to force timeout and take the lead for good. Gipson then canned seven straight points to keep Tarleton ahead 18-13. His last bucket – a layup through traffic – kicked off an 18-2 run capped by back-to-back long bombs from Hicks that swelled the Texan's advantage to 34-17 with 6:00 to go in the half. SAGU then crawled within 12 points with under 3:00 to play but Tarleton again punched back – this time in the form of an 8-2 run to lead 46-28 entering the break. 

Tarleton shot a blistering 57% (19-33) from the field through the first 20 minutes. The Texans also dished out 12 assists and benefited from as many points off turnovers. 

The program's hallmark – it's man pressure defense – took over to begin the second half. Tarleton induced six turnovers in the first five minutes of the period as its lead grew to 59-36 with 14:53 to go. 

The Texans forced 19 turnovers for the evening – their third most in a game this season. 

Even as head coach Billy Gillispie turned to his bench, the Texans continued to pad their edge on the scoreboard. Tarleton took its largest lead of the evening at 58-32 with 14:12 to go. 

SAGU, though, refused to mail it in. 

The Lions cut Tarleton's lead down to 10 points under the 4:00 mark, later scored six straight points to get trim the deficit to six at 76-70 with :30 seconds remaining and drained a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left on the clock to get within four points of Tarleton at 77-73. 

Shakur Daniel and Javontae Hopkins knocked down five straight free throws over the final 25 seconds to preserve the victory. 

Nykolas Mason and Joshua Kashila combined for 48 points — 35 of which came in the second half – to keep the Lions competitive. Mason kncoked down 9-10 attempts at the foul line as a part of his 26-point effort while Kashila finished with 22 points.  

The game also featured the symbolic intersection of Tarleton's past and present. Senior guard Isaiah Boling, who played three seasons for Tarleton from 2017-2020, returned to Wisdom Gym with SAGU. Boiling played for legendary head coach and current Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Lonn Reisman as a freshman in 2017. Wednesday marked the last time Tarleton will ever face a player who suited up for Reisman. Boiling scored eight points in 26 minutes off the bench. 

Tarleton owns a 5-1 edge over SAGU in the all-time series with the victory. 

The Texans now close out nonconference play with a home-and-home against South Alabama (8-2) on Dec. 14 and Dec. 17 and home game vs. Air Force (6-1)  on Dec. 21.