BARTLESVILLE, Okla. - Tarleton State used a 32-8 run in a 11-minute span before halftime and early in the second half to not only erase a 14-point deficit but then create a sizeable second-half margin to cruise past Midwestern State and into the LSC Championship final.
On offense, TSU guard Corin Henry scored 29 points, while the Texans shut down MSU to just 12 second-half points en route to a 74-50 win, marking their third victory over the Mustangs this season.
The Mustangs led by as many as 14 points in the first half half and seemed to regain momentum when senior guard Chris Hagan buried a 3-pointer to give MSU a 38-33 halftime advantage.
"We felt like we really did what we wanted to do, obviously, in the first half," MSU coach Grant McCasland said. "They made a nice run down the stretch of the first half to get it close, the Chris made a big 3 and I thought we kind of figured it back out and gained some mementum at the half. Then had a nightmare in the second half."
The Mustangs didn't manage a field goal over the opening 7:34 of the second half as part of a Freddy Kruger sequence of events that had MSU shooting 0-for-5 from the field and 1-for-8 from the free throw line while committing six turnovers.
Senior forward David Terrell finally ended 18-1 run with a steal and a dunk with 12:36 to play, but that didn't stop the bleeding.
"We missed however many consecutive free throws to start the half and I think we just started to tumble," McCasland said. "Once the momentum shifted, we started trying too make up too much ground too fast. We shot it quicker than we wanted to and panicked. We were trying to make all-star plays insted of being solid. That's my fault as a coach."
Tarleton limited the Mustangs to 5-of-22 shooting (22.7 percent) in the second half and held Midwestern's to it's lowest output in a single half since scoring two points in a 9-8 win over LeTourneau on Feb. 14, 1966. The final margin of defeat was the most since MSU dropped an 87-61 decision on Feb. 7, 2005 at Texas A&M-Commerce.
Ironically enough, MSU swept Tarleton last season with four victories, including one in the 2010 LSC Final here in Bartlesville.
And that's where Tarleton will be once again – this time facing Central Oklahoma in Sunday's final tournament game in Bartlesville, with the LSC Championships moving to Allen, Texas beginning next year. This is the first time in the four years of the league championship in Bartlesville that both No. 1 seeds will meet in the men's final.
Tarleton, which improves to 24-4 overall, is seeking its second-ever LSC Championship title, but first since 2004.
The loss not only drops Midwestern to 22-8 but ends MSU's reign as tournament champion, after claiming the last two titles here in Bartlesville.
The Mustangs should have a spot in next week's South Central Regional tournament. And with a current No. 6 ranking, and Tarleton holding the No. 3 spot, there's a reasonable chance the two squads could meet for a fourth time.
If so, the Mustangs will have to improve their free-throw shooting, something they survived Thursday night against Texas A&M-Commerce when they shot 47.4 percent and managed a 15-point quarterfinal win. But against TSU, the Mustangs couldn't get away with a dismal 5-20 effort (20 percent) from the line.
Meanwhile, Tarleton benefitted from the abundance of fouls called on both teams – 44 overall. The Texans shot 25 of 33 from the stripe, but also made 9 of 20 from 3-point land.
Along with Henry's 29, Donta Smith scored 12 and Fabian Wilson's 10 points were critical in just 11 minutes.
With MSU leading 31-17 with just over four minutes to play until halftime, Wilson canned two 3-pointers to help Tarleton claw back into the game. The Texans cut the Mustangs' lead to two, but then MSU guard Chris Hagan nailed his fifth 3-pointer of the half as time expired, pushing back the lead to five. Hagan had 19 of his 21 points in the first half.
But clearly, the Texans were in control. TSU continued to roll in the second half, starting with a 7-0 run. By the 13:19 mark, Tarleton led 49-39 and never looked back.