Sometimes all you need is that third and final chance to win a ball game.
On Tuesday night at Michelob Ultra Arena, Tarleton got that third chance.
Jakorie Smith went for a career-high 26 points as the Texans held on to beat UTRGV, 74-70, to advance to Thursday’s quarterfinals.
It is the first postseason win of the Division I era for the Texans.
“Great win for Tarleton basketball,” Tarleton head coach Billy Gillispie said. “It’s the first-ever postseason tournament, any kind of play, whatever in the Division I era and we’re extremely happy to get a great win against a team that had already beat us twice.”
The Texans have had about 10 days to prepare for their first-ever Division I postseason game.
Would there be some rust? How would they handle the spotlight?
Garry Clark and Shamir Bogues answered that right out of the gate. Clark and Bogues combined to score 10 of Tarleton’s first 12 points. Jakorie Smith’s first bucket gave the Texans a 14-4 lead with 14 minutes left to play in the half.
Smith’s second-chance layup pushed the lead to 17 midway through the first half. And the Texans were rolling.
Will Johnston tried to will UTRGV back into the ball game. Johnston’s 3-pointer cut the deficit to nine with 4:07 left in the half.
However, out of the under four media timeout, Jakorie Smith knocked down a pair of free throws and the lead was back to 11.
Smith then hit a driving layup on the following possession to push the lead to 13.
UTRGV then showed signs of life to end the first half. Derrius Ward hit a pull-up jumper to spark a 9-0 run to end the half.
Out of the break, C.J. Jackson hit a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to one.
However, Jakorie Smith and Shamir Bogues teamed up for a 6-0 run to push the lead back to seven early in the second half.
Knowing what happened in the previous two games between Tarleton and UTRGV, everyone in the building knew a thriller was in store.
That is exactly what the second half turned into.
Will Johnston’s 3-pointer gave UTRGV a 49-48 lead with 11:28 to play.
Shamir Bogues responded with a layup of his own to give Tarleton the lead right back.
Coreyoun Rushin’s fast-break dunk gave the Texans a 57-49 lead. And Freddy Hicks hit a pair of free throws to give the Texans a 10-point lead with 8:23 to play.
Arguably the biggest moment in the ball game came in a 14-second burst.
Shamir Bogues drew an offensive foul on Adante’ Holiman. First, it was Holiman’s fourth foul so he had to exit. Second, it gave Tarleton the ball back right after a Jakorie Smith layup. On the following inbounds play, Bogues knocked down a corner jumper to push the Tarleton lead to 11.
Coreyoun Rushin then stole the inbounds pass, found Shamir Bogues while falling out of bounds, who then found Freddy Hicks for the one-handed hammer dunk.
All of a sudden, in the spurt of 14 seconds, Tarleton had pushed its lead to 13 points. Freddy Hicks hit another layup on the following possession to make it 67-52 with 5:26 to play.
However, UTRGV didn’t blink.
Perhaps it was Tarleton head coach Billy Gillispie who gave UTRGV time to catch its breath. Following the Hicks layup, Gillispie took a 30-second timeout.
It sparked a quick 7-0 UTRGV run to cut the deficit to eight with 3:11 to play.
On the following Tarleton possession, Jakorie Smith knocked down a pair of free throws to push the lead right back to 10.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by C.J. Jackson and Adante’ Holiman cut the deficit to four. Daylen Williams followed it up with a free throw and all of a sudden with 1:33 it was a three-point ball game.
Justin Johnson’s 3-pointer with 19 seconds left made it a two-point game.
However, it was as close as the Vaqueros would get.
Lue Williams hit one of two free throws with 11 seconds left to seal the win.
“Very, very tough game,” Gillispie said. “But these guys are tougher than nails and they came through when it mattered the most. Great win for Tarleton.”
Third time is the charm. It is always tough to beat a team for a third time in a season.
Along with Smith’s big night, Freddy Hicks and Shamir Bogues had big nights offensively, as well. Hicks finished with 18 points and Bogues had 17 in the win. Tarleton advances to take on 2-seed Utah Valley on Thursday night at the Orleans Arena.
C.J. Jackson had a team-high 17 points for the Vaqueros. Will Johnston finished with 14 points. Justin Johnson had 13 points and Daylen Williams finished with 12 points. The Vaqueros finish the 2022-23 campaign at 15-17 overall.