Men’s basketball falls to conference rival Tarleton 81-83

Brent Deeb

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Cam Adderley, senior in business, sinks a three-pointer during the rivery game against #6 Tareleton State University Jan. 15 in D.L. Ligon Coliseum. Tarleton defeated MSU 81-83. MSU is now 3-1 in Lone Star Conference action with an 11-5 overall record. The next game is Jan. 22 against Angelo State University in San Angelo at 8 p.m. The next home game will be Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. against Texas A&M-Kingsville. Photo by Lauren Roberts

Cam Adderley, senior in business, sinks a three-pointer during the rivery game against #6 Tareleton State University Jan. 15 in D.L. Ligon Coliseum. Tarleton defeated MSU 81-83. MSU is now 3-1 in Lone Star Conference action with an 11-5 overall record. The next game is Jan. 22 against Angelo State University in San Angelo at 8 p.m. The next home game will be Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. against Texas A&M-Kingsville. Photo by Lauren Roberts

If someone at that game had no affiliation with either school, if they’d never heard the stories or bore witness to last year’s post-season match ups, the rivalry would still have been obvious.

The turnout alone spoke volumes as D.L. Ligon Colesium was packed to the brim from the highest sections, where the Wildcats hockey team shouted chants, down to the students sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on the gym floor at last Wednesday’s men’s basketball game against Tarleton resulting in an 81-83 loss for the Mustangs.

Fans sat tapping their feet with anticipation, wide-eyed and bobbing their heads trying to get a clear line of sight to the action – like kids on the playground huddling around a crowded fight.

And a fight is what they would get.

“We were definitely excited,” Nelson Haggerty, men’s head basketball coach, said. “Players and fans get anxious for games like this. This is where we get better.”

The Mustangs were first on the board as Cam Adderley’s aggressive play put him at the free throw line for the first two points of the game. That, with the help of four points from Eddie D’haiti would spark a 10-2 run by the Mustangs to put them ahead early

The Texans came back strong as two consecutive buckets from Chuck Guy pulled them within two. But the resilience of the Mustangs was apparent as Kevin Wagner hit a runner in the lane and a blocked shot in the short corner. This energy off the bench sparked a 12-2 run which included a crowd-pleasing alley-oop from Monzaigo Williams to Derrell Gibbs that would force a Tarleton timeout and give the Mustangs a 28-16 lead with 7:36 left in the half.

The excitement was short-lived however as TSU came out of the timeout firing on all cylinders. A couple of steals from Michael Hardge and an oop of their own to Damion Clemons cut the lead in half and forced a Mustang timeout with 6:23 left.

Two more MSU turnovers, another slam from Damion Clemons, and a deep three from Guy would tie the game at 39-39 with 1:20 left. Once again, the Mustangs refused to let TSU have the lead as Xavier Blackburn hit his second three of the half. Blackburn put up a team-high 18 pts in his eighth game in the starting lineup.

“That’s the Xavier we recruited,” Tres Segler, assistant coach, said. “He’s so tough. His role on this team is growing and he’s becoming a real threat.”

Blackburn’s three gave the Mustangs a 42-39 lead going into the half.

The grind-it-out first half would foreshadow the next as the two teams exchanged buckets for most of the second period. Despite two 3’s and eight straight points from Williams in the early goings, the Texas would take their first lead of the game at 54-55 with 11:56 to go.

The next couple of minutes were somewhat rhythmical. The noise of the game had patterns. The crowd would erupt, and then be silenced. The fans would gasp at the release of a shot, and then complain at its result. The sound of the Tomahawk Chop gave it tempo. The coliseum had a pulse. It was like the background music, building up suspense for the final moments of the game.

The last two minutes would define the game. Following a layup from Clemons to give the Texas a 77-83 lead Dejuan Plummer was sent to the line for two one-and-one opportunities. He missed on his first chance and converted one of two on his second attempt, giving the Texans the ball with a five point lead and 1:28 left to play.

A missed three from Guy and a quick kick out gave Plummer the ball coming up the sideline with :56 left and the earlier misses at the line had no affect on his confidence as he dribbled into a pull-up three that put the Mustangs within one with :49 to go.

“The three felt good right away,” Plummer said. “I was just trying to get us a quick bucket. I knew if we could get another stop after that, we would have a good chance at the win.”

They did get a stop as the increase in defensive pressure led Guy to miss his second chance at icing the game. The rebound fell to Blackburn, the timeout was called, and the moment was set.

The ball is inbounded. Chants of “DEFENSE” come from the Tarleton bench. There’s a series of dribble hand offs. The hockey team begins to shout “MSU… MSU… MSU.” Plummer passes to Williams. Nine seconds remain on the clock.

This is it. Thousands of people on their feet, waiting to see something extraordinary. Unfortunately, as Williams found out, even when the moment is right and the timing is perfect and you’re face-to-face with the chance you’ve spent years waiting for, life has one more lesson to teach.

“I can’t really explain it,” Williams said. “I went to attack and tried to go into a dribble pull-up and I just lost the ball. I tried to tip it to a teammate, and then it was all over.”

The Mustangs fell to the Texans 81-83.

Although the crowd would clear and the gym would be swept up, the sting of defeat lingered. Still, one look at the MSU players coming out of the locker room-one look at Monzaigo Williams-one look at coach Haggerty-and it’s clear this one loss will not define their seasons. Each expression showed disappointment in mistakes, but eagerness for the future.

“I feel great about the team,” said Haggerty. “We did great things tonight. A couple of possessions here and there, and we get a win.”

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