CMI staff writer
Tarleton State has been pretty successful this season riding its hot hand, whether it’s De’Andre Upchurch or Chuck Guy. Saturday night, the pair were more than enough to clinch a share of the Lone Star Conference regular season title.
Upchurch had 23 of his career-high 38 points in the first half, and Guy scored 24 points with a pair of back-breaking 3-pointers as the Texans never trailed in a 92-82 win over Eastern New Mexico University to move to 23-1 on the season.
The Texans, 12-1 in the Lone Star Conference, can clinch the top seed Saturday with either a win at Texas A&M-Commerce or a Midwestern State loss at Cameron.
Upchurch, who blew by his previous career high of 24, hit four 3-pointers as part of a 7-of-8 first half from beyond the arc for the Texans, who jumped out to an 8-0 lead and fought off a few spirited Greyhound runs.
“He’s been playing really well most of the year, and he’s been great the last few games,” Longtime Tarleton State coach Lonn Reisman said. “He’s a great shooter, he has a high IQ and he’s got great shot selection.”
His 3-point play with 11:15 to go broke an 11-2 Greyhound run that pared the Texan lead to just 62-60, and he and Guy combined for 19 points over the final 10 minutes — including a Guy 3-pointer with 1:30 that put Tarleton up 84-75 with 1:30 left.
It was just
too much for the Greyhounds, who were led by Rodney Blackmon’s 25 points but lost a pair of starters late to foul trouble.
“Coach (Andrew) Helton did a great job tonight,” said Reisman, 543-227 over 26 seasons with TSU. “His kids played really, really hard, and they’re to be commended.”
Helton said Tarleton’s a good enough to team to beat without the hot start it had from beyond the arc.
“That’s the best Division II team I’ve seen in my five years here at Eastern,” Helton said. “That said, we made a lot of plays that got the game tighter, but we never were able to make the plays to get us over the hump.”
The loss means the Greyhounds (13-12, 6-7 LSC) can finish no higher than the fourth seed for the upcoming conference tournament in Allen, Texas. Eastern is currently tied for fourth with Texas A&M-Commerce (17-8, 6-7), which could jump all the way to the third seed if it upsets the Texans and third-place Angelo State (17-8, 7-6) falters against Texas A&M-Kingsville.
Meanwhile, Cameron could still cause havoc in the seedings with a win Saturday over Midwestern State (19-6, 11-2), which has won eight straight and could overtake the Texans for the top seed with a win over Commerce, a Tarleton State loss and an Angelo State loss.
Reisman is no stranger to big seasons — this is his 15th 20-win season in 26 with the school — and he knows that the better the start, the bigger the expectations.
“A lot of people think it’s fun being 23-1; I’ve got news for them,” Reisman said. “There’s a hell of a lot of pressure being 23-1.”