Tarleton defeats Lamar to guarantee winning record

TSU Sports Information

BEAUMONT — It's been a roller coaster of a season chock full of high points for Tarleton in the 2021-22 campaign.

But perhaps no game and end result carried a greater lasting significance than Saturday's Western Athletic Conference contest at Lamar inside the Montagne Center.

Less than 48 hours after being outscored by 19 points in the fourth quarter at UTRGV to sully a surefire road win, the Texans responded in resounding fashion.

Tarleton staved off a fourth quarter comeback bid to spoil the Cardinals' Senior Day in the form of a 67-64 victory.

The win boosted the Texans' overall record to 15-11 and 7-9 in conference play with two games remaining in the regular season, guaranteeing the program its first winning record in Tarleton's WAC and Division I era.

Misty Wilson

"We want to build this program, and we want to do it in the right way and with the right kind of student athletes," said head coach Misty Wilson. "This group has really done that. There's been some highs and lows this season, absolutely. But I think we're headed in the right direction with where we're going and where we want to put this program on the Division I map."

Resilient is an appropriate adjective to describe Tarleton's second D1 season. Following Saturday's result, the Texans are 12-2 in games coming off a loss.

The Texans earned their first-ever victory over Lamar, who defeated Tarleton 53-45 on Jan. 27 in Stephenville.

Tarleton also bolstered its postseason prospects with a successful trip in southeast Texas. The Texans moved a half-game in front of Lamar (11-13, 6-9 WAC) and into a tie for seventh place in the WAC standings. Tarleton can finish as high as fourth with victories over Sam Houston and Abilene Christian, whom it hosts on March 2-5, in the final week of the regular season.

Kendrick

"To get this win tonight, I feel like that boosted our confidence for our next two home games we have," said fifth-year senior Malaya Kendrick. "This was a big energy-giver for us."

Kendrick finished with a team-high 14 points on 6-7 shooting. Dick was not far behind, netting 12 points on the strength of a trio of 3-pointers.

Lucy Benson and Jurnee President each tallied nine points and were Tarleton's leaders on the glass. Benson snagged seven boards while President finished with five.

Fellow post players Marissa Escamilla and Nya Mitchels combined for 12 points off the bench.

Trailing 21-18 midway through the second quarter, Kendrick followed up back-to-back bombs from downtown by Dick with consecutive takes to the rack to give Tarleton a 28-23 lead with 2:27 left in the first half it never relinquished.

Tarleton closed the frame on a 15-4 run to lead it 32-25 at the intermission. The team shot 60 percent combined in the second period and out-rebounded the Cardinals 12-5.

The Texans continued to attack an aggressive Lamar press with success in the third quarter. Two layups from President kept Tarleton ahead by seven. Kendrick followed with a jumper from the left baseline to make 38-29. Escamilla sandwiched a pair of buckets around two free throws from freshman Mason Jones, who gave Tarleton four points and 11 minutes off the bench, to stake Tarleton to its largest lead of the afternoon at 44-32 with 2:10 to go in the frame.

"We didn't change who we were," Wilson said. "We were being really aggressive and continuing to get really good stuff off the backside of their press. That's what we wanted them to do."

Tarleton also induced Lamar's leading scorer and rebounder – 6-2 center Akasha Davis  (12.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg) – into two fouls in the third quarter and four for the game. The Texans limited Davis to 13 points and five boards across 23 minutes. The freshman scored 21 points and 10 boards in Lamar's eight-point victory over Tarleton in January.

"I thought our bigs really battled her," Wilson said. "She had 13 points and went 5-8, but she didn't play as many minutes as the first time we played the them, and part of that was because we were really affecting her. She got a few fouls early, so we were able to have her on the bench. She's very physical. I thought our post players did a really good job of matching that and really making it difficult [for her]."

Early in the fourth quarter, Tarleton appeared to be in danger of a repeat of Thursday's scene in Edinburg ensuing.

The Cardinals scored eight of the first 12 points to reduce the Texans' edge to 48-44 with 7:17 to go. Wilson quickly called timeout and Kendrick took care to subdue the Cardinals' surge.

The 5-7 guard rolled one-on-one to the right side of the rack and converted a layup on Tarleton's first possession out of the timeout.

Kendrick scored a team-high six fourth quarter points on perfect shooting.

"Coach talked to me after the UTRGV game, and she told me I need to be more aggressive and keep the ball in my hands, so that's what I did," Kendrick said. "I trust my coach and what she tells me to do."

Even as Lamar mounted its comeback bid – the Cardinals trimmed the lead to 54-50 at the 4:38 mark of the quarter – Tarleton didn't flinch.

Dick drained her third-and-final 3-pointer of the ballgame from the left key on the following play to increase Tarleton's advantage back to seven points.

Lamar then worked the game down to a one-possession affair at 59-57 with 2:44 left to play. Benson and Escamilla then teamed up to deliver the biggest play of the ballgame. With Lamar in possession to tie or take the lead with under 2:00 to go, Benson secured a rebound near the top of the key of a Lamar miss, initiated a fast break and dumped the ball down to Escamilla for a layup on the left block.

The Cardinals never crawled closer than three points the rest of the way.

"I think we kept our confidence," Kendrick said. "When they came back and scored, we didn't get down on that."

Tarleton sealed the game by going 8-10 at the foul line over the final 33 seconds. Dick was responsible for three of Tarleton's makes at the charity stripe while Kendrick and Tyler Jackson  (7 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists) each delivered a perfect trip at the line.

The Texans limited their turnovers to three in the final period after giving the ball away six times in the fourth quarter of Thursday's loss at UTRGV.

Tarleton went 6-10 from the field over the game's final 10 minutes.

The Texans finished with a 29-25 advantage on the glass and shot 53 percent from the field compared to a 44 percent clip from Lamar.

The attention now turns to the teams penultimate home game vs. Sam Houston on Wednesday. The Texans defeated the Bearkats 62-61 on Jan. 17 in Huntsville. Sam Houston has gone 8-4 since the teams' first meeting. Tipoff for Wednesday's tilt is set for 6 p.m. inside Wisdom Gym.