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Free throws give No. 12 Texans edge over No. 23 MSU

Senior guard Mo Lee scored six of Tarleton’s final eight points in a narrow victory over rival Midwestern State Wednesday .(Photo courtesy NATHAN BURAL/Tarleton)

WICHITA FALLS (TheFlashToday) — Tarleton State didn’t have a single signature road win entering last weekend. Now, the Texans have two.

Mo Lee scored six of Tarleton’s final eight points after the game was tied at 50, and the No. 12 Texans (19-2, 6-2) rode a 27-30 performance from the free throw stripe to a 58-53 win over No. 23 Midwestern State (17-5, 6-2) at D.L. Ligon Coliseum Wednesday evening.

It’s the first time in school history Tarleton has won consecutive regular-season road games over nationally-ranked opponents. They won at then-No. 25 Texas A&M-Commerce 77-73 last Saturday.

Lee made a ball fake to let a defender fly by then drained a 17-foot pull-up jump shot to put Tarleton on top for good, 54-52 with 2:25 remaining. The senior guard was 10-10 from the foul stripe and scored 16 points as the Texans avenged a 78-76 loss to the Mustangs in Stephenville on January 14.

The rivals have met 36 times since 2000, with Tarleton holding a 19-17 edge during the stretch. They are tied for second in the Lone Star Conference, two games behind Angelo State.

“I had just missed a 3-pointer before that, so I used the ball fake, and I’m confident shooting the pull-up,” said Lee. “We know you have to defend your home court, so when we lost at home we felt like we let ourselves down and our coaches down. We wanted to come here and get that one back.”

And get it back they did, withstanding 21 points and eight rebounds by Xavier Blackburn by holding him to just seven points in the second half.

TaShawn Mabry scored 17 to lead the Texans, who also picked up a gritty eight points and seven boards from freshman guard Nosa Ebomwonyi. Mabry banked in a right-block jumper to make it 56-52 with 1:34 remaining.

Midwestern didn’t hit a field goal the final three minutes, their last a hard-driving layup by Kevin Wagner that evened the score at 52-52 with 3:12 left. The Mustangs scored just one point the rest of the way when Alton Smith was 1-2 from the stripe with 1:18 left.

Midwestern had opportunities, but was just 4-15 from the stripe, where Tarleton outscored the Mustangs by 23.

The Texans scored seven straight – four by Mabry before a 3-pointer by Ebomwonyi – to lead 36-26 with 17:25 left, but with the history between the rivals, it was almost as if all of the 3,006 in attendance knew the game was a long way from over.

Sure enough, Midwestern responded.

Wagner, who joined Alston in scoring seven for MSU, hit a 3-pointer to cut Tarleton’s lead to 48-46, and after an exchange of layups – Mabry for Tarleton and Alston for MSU – Hershell Grant blocked a shot and raced the other way to finish with a transition layup to tie the game 50-50 with 3:41 left.

Both teams struggled against the other’s stingy defense, with Tarleton shooting 34.1 percent and MSU just 36.1. Midwestern out-rebounded Tarleton 39-37, but the Mustangs turned 25 offensive rebounds into only 13 second-chance points. Tarleton hit the offensive glass 13 times and turned them into 18 points.

Tarleton led 29-24 at the half because of its large advantage at the free throw line. The Texans were 19-22 at the break, Midwestern just 3-6. They needed the foul shots to go because they hit just 5-19 from the floor (26.3 percent).

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