STEPHENVILLE, TX (KAUZ) - Devante Pullum and Brandon Neel delivered superb scoring halves for Midwestern State Saturday afternoon at Wisdom Gym.
Pullum was perfect in the first half going 7-for-7 with five 3-pointers, while Neel scored 19 of his game-high 27 points in the second half. Pullum finished with 21 points, his third 20-point performance of the season.
It just wasn't enough as the Mustangs fell to Tarleton State 82-75 to go to 6-14 on the season and 3-8 in Lone Star Conference play.
"We had a couple-minute stretch where we didn't guard as well," MSU coach Nelson Haggerty said. "They shot the ball very well. We had a hard time guarding their forwards around basket and we helped down they made the right plays."
Tarleton State shot 64 percent from the field in the second half and led by as many as 12 paced Corinthian Ramsey's 23-point effort, but still the Mustangs found a way to make a late push.
Neel shot MSU back to within 68-65 on his 3-ball from the left wing with 4:41 to play, but Tarleton would push the advantage back to nine before Midwestern made a final run.
Neel drilled his fifth triple of the game before Ola Ayodele hit one of two free throws to get the Mustangs back to within 77-73 with 44 seconds to go. MSU junior Wanaah Bail snagged the rebound on the missed charity toss, but Neel was unable to connect on a 3-pointer from the corner.
Tarleton State connected on 5-of-6 free throws over the final 30 seconds to secure the victory and improve to 12-8 and 7-4.
"We had our chances. We fought back and were one free throw away from making it a one possession game," Haggerty said. "We are working our tails off but just not the getting the wins."
Midwestern State steps out of conference play to welcome St. Mary's (Texas) to D.L. Ligon Coliseum Monday night at 6 p.m.
The MSU Mustangs couldn't overcome a season-high 43 made free throws by Tarleton State in an 86-81 thriller in Stephenville. The loss drops the Mustangs to 10-8 on the season and 7-5 in Lone Star Conference play.
Midwestern State closed the first half on an 11-3 run after trailing by as many as 15 with 4:28 to play before the intermission. Junior forward Chelsea Adams scored 13 of her 15 first half points in the second quarter, with nine of those coming on the run by the Maroon and Gold to close the half.
Foul trouble hurt the Mustangs in the early goings as four of five starters were tagged with two fouls in the first half. The TexAnns went 23-of-25 from the free throw line in the opening 20 minutes, compared to MSU's 6-of-7 from the charity stripe.
MSU continued to close the gap, pulling to within four to start the fourth quarter, 68-64. After a three-pointer by TSU's Kylie Collins stretched the lead to six, the Maroon and Gold mounted an 8-0 run to take the lead, highlighted by one of senior guard Whitney Taylor's four triples on the night.
The lead by the Mustangs was short-lived, however, as MSU gave up the lead for good on a Mackenzie Hailey layup with 3:33 to play.
Senior guard Jasmine Richardson and sophomore guard Mica Schneider twice made layups to pull Midwestern State within one, but free throws allowed the TexAnns to extend the lead back to five with 1:41 to go.
Taylor answered with a layup of her own and Richardson knocked down both free throws to cut it to one with 39 seconds on the clock. On the ensuing possession, Tarleton State's McKinley Bostad stepped on the baseline while driving to give the Mustangs an opportunity to shoot for the lead in the final seconds. Schneider's layup from the left block bounced off the front iron. After a pair of free throws, Taylor launched a deep three that fell short of the basket. The TexAnns grabbed the rebound and hit both free throws to close out the game.
Senior guard Kristin Rydell and junior forward Chelsea Adams each scored 17 to lead MSU. Taylor added 14 points and six assists and also tied Adams for the team lead with six rebounds.
Katie Webster led the TexAnns with 29 points and 13 rebounds.
Midwestern State is back in action on Thursday, Feb. 1 against Texas A&M-Kingsville at D.L. Ligon Coliseum. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m.