Tarleton set to challenge No. 20 Michigan on Thanksgiving Eve in Ann Arbor

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THE GAME 

Teams: Tarleton (1-4) at No. 20 Michigan (3-2) 

Date: 6 p.m. CT on Wednesday, Nov. 24 

Location: Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan 

TELEVISION: Big 10 Network 

Kevin Kugler, Play-by-Play 

Brian Butch, Analyst 

RADIO: Tarleton Sports Network, KTRL 90.5 FM 

Byron Anderson, Play-by-Play 

ABOUT THE MATCHUP 

There’s no time for Tarleton to sulk or dwell on a close, controversial 54-53 loss to North Dakota State on Monday. The Texans now draw their second Associated Press top-25 opponent of the season and in school history in No. 20 Michigan on Thanksgiving Eve. The Wolverines are the first of two teams who earned a No. 1 seed in the 2021 NCAA Tournament Tarleton will face this season. 

  • Tarleton and Michigan have never met in any sport. 

  • Wednesday’s tilt marks the Texans’ first contest opposite a Big 10 school in any sport. 

  • A win over Michigan would mark Tarleton’s first-ever D1 nonconference road victory. 

  • Michigan represents the fifth team Tarleton has faced currently listed in the top-150 of the Ken Pomeroy Basketball Ratings and fourth that has been ranked in the top-75 this season. 

  • The Wolverines dropped 16 spots in this week’s AP top-25 following losses to Seton Hall and Arizona. 

  • Cage the Elephant’s “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” is an appropriate tune entering the contest. Both teams are playing their fourth game in eight days. Tarleton split a twin bill last week before venturing to North Dakota, dropping a decision at Wichita State and responding with a 27-point home win – its first of the season – vs. Paul Quinn on Friday. Michigan lost to Seton Hall at home 67-65 on Nov. 16 and finished as the runner-up at the Las Vegas based Roman Main Event, defeating UNLV on Friday and falling to Arizona 80-62 two days later.  

  • Michigan inked the consensus No. 1 overall recruiting class in the 2021 cycle under third-year head coach Juwan Howard 

  • The Wolverines return eight letter winners from last season, including 7-1 center Hunter Dickinson, an consensus second team All-American in 2021. 

  • While recruiting prognosticators would likely give the nod to Michigan, Tarleton is the more experienced team of the two. The Texans have five seniors and 11 upperclassmen on their roster. Conversely, 11 of the 17 players listed on the Wolverines’ roster are underclassmen.  

GAME COVERAGE 

Fans can access a live stream to the game at FoxSports.com/Live. The Big 10 Network is now a part of Fox Sports. Links to the video broadcast as well as live stats can be found on the men’s basketball schedule page at TarletonSports.com. A complete radio broadcast of the game can be heard on the Tarleton Sports Network at TarletonSports.com/Watch and on the flagship station of Tarleton athletics – KTRL 90.5 FM in Stephenville. The pregame show begins 30 minutes before tipoff. 

ATTENDING THE GAME 

For Michigan natives, Midwesterners or Tarleton fans alike interested in making the trip to Ann Arbor, single game tickets are available for purchase online on the men’s basketball schedule page at GoBlue.com or by calling the Michigan Ticket Department at 734-764-0247. General admission seats are $20. 

TEXAN NOTABLES 

  • Tarleton suffered a gut-wrencher of a one-point loss to NDSU on Monday. The Texans led for nearly 32 minutes, did not trail until there was 6:39 remaining, and held a 53-52 lead with seven seconds to go.  

  • The Texans were whistled for 17 fouls to NDSU’s 10. The Bison did not convert a field goal over the final 4:54 of the game but secured four trips to the charity stripe. 

  • The 54 points allowed by Tarleton were its fewest vs. a D1 opponent under Gillispie, a season-low by the Bison and lowest scoring figure in a home game for NDSU since Feb. 14, 2013.  

  • Tarleton possesses one of the top scoring defenses in the WAC, ranking third at 76.2 points per game. 

  • The Texans went 10-11 at the foul line on Monday and are one of the best free throw shooting teams in the conference, ranking second at 62.2 points allowed per game. 

INDIVIDUAL NOTABLES 

  • Freddy Hicks scored 15 points and grabbed a game and season-high nine rebounds while covering NDSU star Rocky Kreuser on Monday. Hicks, 6-6, held the 6-10 Kreuser to one field goal inside the arc. 

  • Hicks is averaging 12.3 points and 7 rebounds per game over Tarleton’s last three outings. 

  • Tahj Small (12 points) and Montre Gipson (11 points) joined Hicks in double figures. Gipson leads Tarleton in scoring at 14.4 points per outing. 

  • A 6-5 guard, Small is Tarleton’s leading rebounder with 33 boards. The Durham, North Carolina native has snagged six-or-more rebounds in all-but-one of Tarleton’s contests. 

  • Small (11.8 ppg) has increased his scoring average by 2.6 points per game from 2020-21. 

  • Gipson has now reached double figures in scoring in nine consecutive games and 10 of his last 11 outings following his effort in Fargo. Gipson is Tarleton’s active leader in career points scored (351) and minutes played (781). 

  • Gipson, Small and Shamir Bogues played the full 40 minutes vs. the Bison. Gipson ranks second in the WAC in minutes per game at 35.4 while position-mate Shakur Daniel is fifth at 35.2. Small ranks eighth at 34.2 minutes per outing. 

TARLETON-NORTH DAKOTA STATE WRAP-UP 

  • Tarleton limited the Bison to just five made field goals inside the arc and forced 31 attempts from long range. 

  • The Texans never trailed in the first half and led for 17:25 in the frame. 

  • Tarleton led 6-0 to open the game and by as many as 11 points at 26-15 with 1:45 left in the first half. 

  • NDSU sunk two free throws with seven seconds remaining following a controversial foul call on Hicks to secure the win. 

  • The Bison used a 6-0 run late in the second half to take a 49-44 lead – their largest of the night – at the 4:54 mark of the second half. 

  • Tarleton finished with the advantage in turnovers forced (13-6), points off turnovers (19-6) and fast break points (11-7). 

  • Tarleton went 0-7 from long range in the second half. 

  • Hicks led all players in offensive rebounds with five. 

  • Hopkins’ five points – all of which came with less than five minutes in regulation – were a season high.  

  • Bogues has recorded a steal in every game this season following his three-steal effort on Monday. 

  • The Bison were the second team ranked in the CollegeInsider.com Mid Major Top-25 Tarleton has ever faced. 

A WIN OVER MICHIGAN WOULD 

  • Be the program’s first win over a team ranked inside the Associated Press Top-25. 

  • Signify the Texans first nonconference road victory as a D1 program. 

  • Give the Western Athletic Conference its first victory over an AP top-25 team this season.  

  • Snap a four-game road losing streak. 

  • Improve Gillispie’s road record at Tarleton to 5-11. 

  • Give Gillispie his 160th career win as a D1 head coach. 

  • Mark Tarleton’s 12th victory as a D1 program.  

  • Mark the Texans’ sixth true D1 victory. 

  • Hand the Wolverines their third loss in four games. 

A LOSS TO MICHIGAN WOULD 

  • Dip the Texans’ overall record to 1-5 

  • Send Tarleton to its second five-game road losing streak in its D1 era 

  • Drop Tarleton’s mark vs. Power Five conference opponents to 0-4 

  • Lower the Texans’ all-time record in games vs. D1 opponents to 5-15 

  • Make the WAC 0-6 in games against Power Five conference teams this season and 0-2 vs. ranked opponents 

UP NEXT FOR TARLETON 

Tarleton gets the toughest test any team in college basketball will face this season – a trip to The Kennel on Spokane, Washington to face the No. 1 team in the country, the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The game will be Tarleton’s sixth road game thus far and conclude its November nonconference slate. The Texans and Bulldogs were slated to square off on Dec. 8, 2020 in Spokane before COVID-19 developments within Gonzaga’s program forced the game’s cancellation. 

A well-earned home-heavy December slate awaits Tarleton. The Texans play five of their final six nonconference games inside Wisdom Gym, beginning with a three-game homestand vs. Charleston Southern (Dec. 5), Dallas Christian (Dec. 7) and Southwestern Assemblies of God (Dec.). Tarleton closes out nonconference play with back-to-back home games vs. South Alabama on Dec. 17 and Air Force on Dec. 21. 

The game against Charleston Southern represents the first “D1 vs. D1” nonconference home game in program history. Tarleton first travels to Mobile to face South Alabama on Dec. 14 before welcoming the Jaguars to Stephenville. 

BEST OF THE WAC 
Tarleton is featured across the top of the Western Athletic Conference stat leaderboards in multiple categories two weeks into nonconference play. 

Montre Gipson

4th in free throw percentage (.875, seven free throws made) 

5th in minutes (35.4 mpg, 1377 minutes) 

15th in scoring (14.4 ppg, 72 points) 

Freddy Hicks

T-4th in blocks (1.2 bpg, 6 blk) 

Shamir Bogues

5th in steals (2.0 spg, 10 steals) 

Shakur Daniel

7th in minutes (35.2 mpg, 176 minutes) 

15th in steals (1.4 spg, seven steals) 

Tahj Small

15th in rebounds (6.6 rpg, 33 rebounds) 

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING 

“You’ve got a chance to have a good team. A really good team. You’ve got interchangeable parts, everybody’s about the same size, and as you get into the season, that will become much harder to score against because you guys are tough. You won’t let bigs be bigs because you’re tough.” – Bill Self, Kansas head coach 

“Coach told us going in it was going to be a tough game, and they were going to pressure us a lot. That’s something we didn’t see against Michigan State, it was pretty much the opposite. Coach told us it was going to be a dog fight the whole time.” – Christian Braun, Kansas guard 

“Billy Gillispie’s teams really get after you defensively.” – Isaac Brown, Wichita State head coach 

“The pressure certainly bothered us. Their game plan was really, really good, and they executed it very, very well.” – Jerod Haase, Stanford head coach 

PRESSURE, PUT YOU DOWN 

Due to NCAA Division I transition rules, Tarleton does not qualify for NCAA statistical rankings. Had they been eligible last season, the Texans would have ranked first in the nation in steals per game (10.5), second in turnovers forced per game (19.5) and 15th in points allowed per game (62.3).   

Tarleton has forced 20-or-more turnovers in 8-of-24 games under Gillispie. It has held opponents under 50 points nine times. The Texans recorded single-game highs in the Gillispie era in turnovers forced (41) and steals (28) in a 97-26 win over Southwestern Adventist on Feb. 6.    

Tarleton has turned over each of its five opponents at least 13 times to begin 2021-22. The Texans’ 20 forced turnovers vs. Paul Quinn were a season-high. Tarleton turned Stanford over 14 times in its regular season opener on Nov. 9. The Texans then posted a positive turnover differential against the nation’s No. 3 ranked team. The Texans forced 13 turnovers and swiped the ball away nine times at No. 3 Kansas on Nov. 12. Tarleton limited its giveaways to nine. 

The Texans rank fifth in the WAC in steals (38) and turnovers forced (76) as of Nov. 22. Bogues leads Tarleton with 10 steals while Daniel has seven. 

Four players swiped the ball away at least 20 times last season. Shamir Bogues led all players with 37 steals while Daniel (32 steals), Gipson (27 steals), and Small (21 steals) joined Bogues atop the 20-steal threshold. 

‘IT’S PROBABLY THE HARDEST SCHEDULE IN THE COUNTRY’ 

The words spoken by Gillispie on Tarleton’s Preseason WAC Media Day on Oct. 19 ring louder than ever. 

In total, the Texans will play three teams ranked in the top-10 of the Preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll, draw six opponents who made NCAA Tournament appearances in 2021 and face 14 opponents who posted winning records last season. Abilene Christian, Gonzaga, Grand Canyon and Michigan earned automatic berths to the Big Dance in March as conference regular season and tournament champions while Kansas and Wichita State secured at-large invitations. 

WHAT KEN POMEROY THINKS 

The Texans are slated to play the three best teams in the country within the first three weeks of the 2021-22 season. At least, according to college basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy, they are.  

Having already played Kansas, Tarleton is set to draw the three highest-rated teams in the Pomeroy College Basketball Rankings as of Nov. 20: No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 2 Kansas and No. 3 Michigan.  

In total, the Texans will play nine games opposite teams ranked inside the top-150, face seven top-130 programs and draw five foes listed in the top-75. Wichita State and Stanford are ranked No. 67 and No. 90, respectively, while future foes New Mexico State (No. 111), Grand Canyon (No. 126), North Dakota State (No. 146) and Stephen F. Austin (No. 147) all cracked the top-150 of the ratings.  

Tarleton is rated ninth among its conference peers at No. 222, ahead of Lamar (No. 276), Dixie State (No. 308), UTRGV (No. 310), and Chicago State (No. 357). 

GIPSON RACKING UP THE ALL-WAC ACCOLADES 

On Oct. 19, the 5-11 senior made history when he became the first basketball player in Tarleton’s WAC and D1 era to receive Preseason All-WAC first team honors as voted on by the conference media. Gipson was one of just eight players to receive the distinction. He was also named to the Preseason Coaches’ All-WAC Second Team. 

The accolade continued Gipson’s inceptive two-year run at Tarleton. In April 2020, he became the first-ever Division I basketball signee in Tarleton sports history when he followed Gillispie from Ranger College to Stephenville. Following a standout 2020-21 campaign, Gipson was named to the All-WAC Newcomer and Honorable mention teams. He was also the first men’s or women’s player in school history to receive TicketSmarter WAC Player of the Week recognition after picking up the honor for March 1-7. 

Gipson earned his quartet of credentials on the strength of one of the best individual offensive seasons in the WAC last winter. He led Tarleton in points per game (15.3), assists per game (3.0) and free throw percentage (85.2) and his 50 percent mark on 3-pointers ranked first in the WAC. The 5-11 guard accounted for exactly 20 percent of Tarleton’s field goals made with 106. His 290 points scored were tops on the team and represented 19.7 percent of the Texans’ cumulative scoring. 

FOUR ALL-WAC HONOREES IN FIRST OF FOUR D1 TRANSITION YEARS 

Hicks headlined Tarleton’s list of award winners last season when he was named the conference’s Freshman of the Year on March 9. The award was voted on by conference head coaches, who could not vote for their own players.  

No freshman in the conference enjoyed as strong a second half as the Searcy, Arkansas native. The 6-6 swingman led all WAC first-year players in scoring (8.2 ppg) and elevated his game as the schedule shifted to conference play, averaging 8.6 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds per game. Hicks led Tarleton with three double-doubles, all of which came on the road vs. conference opponents. He posted seven double-digit scoring games, including three in Tarleton’s final five WAC games. 

Daniel and Small joined Gipson and Hicks atop the All-WAC pedestal, as they each were named to the All-Conference honorable mention team in March. Daniel was Tarleton’s ‘glue guy (7 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.6 apg) while Small was Tarleton’s leading rebounder (5.8 rpg) and ranked third in the WAC in 3-point field goal percentage (45.7). 

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