The UTPB Falcons put on one last show for the home crowd Saturday, jumping out to a big early lead and rolling to a 92-78 Lone Star Conference victory over Texas A&M Kingsville on Senior Day at the Falcon Dome.
The victory leaves 13th-ranked UTPB (22-3 overall, 14-2 LSC) tied with West Texas A& M atop the conference standings with two games remaining. The Falcons close out the regular season next week with games at Tarleton State and Texas A& M-Commerce, then heads to the LSC postseason tournament.
“We’re still tied and it’s going to come down to next week and who has the better week,” UTPB coach Andy Newman said. “It’s great for us to be even mentioned in the same sentence with WT and Tarleton State, guys like that.
“For us, now we’ve solidified it’s us and WT. We’ll be first and second and on the other side of the bracket (in the LSC tournament). Whoever wins that conference tournament game will probably wind up hosting the NCAA Tournament. It’ll be fun.”
Just as fun was Saturday’s performance, which saw the Falcons take the lead for good on their first shot. UTPB led by as much 31 points before the Javelinas (11-15, 4-12) outscored the Falcons 29-12 over the final eight minutes, closing to within 12 points with 2:15 to go before UTPB stopped the bleeding.
“It’s tough,” Newman said. “You get up 31 and you know they can’t beat you.
It’s tough to keep going.
“I’m just really proud of our guys. They’re playing together on one end of the floor, and on the other end they’re playing with some passion.”
Other than that late lull, the only other downside was the realization that nine UTPB seniors played at the Falcon Dome for possibly the last time.
“I tried not to get emotional in there with those guys today, but I know I will be when we actually do have to say goodbye to them,” Newman said. “It’s easier for me now because I know we’re still going to play seven or eight more games.
“They’ve changed this program. They’ve changed our athletic department. For them to be able to go out like they did — undefeated at home and with a chance to win this championship — I’m just really proud of them.”
Daeshon Francis scored 24 points and Josh Morris scored 22 to lead the Falcons. James McPherson added 18 points, hitting four 3-pointers, and Sammy Allen posted his 11th double-double of the season with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Eight of nine UTPB players that played against Kingsville scored in the game.
“That’s the sign of a team that’s very balanced and they play together,” Newman said. “That’s good. That’s what all of my teams have done in the past and this team is no exception. They are really sharing the ball. When we get guys like that doing that, it makes it fun.”
Morris and Francis each scored 16 points in the first half as the insideoutside combination executed almost perfectly. That’s nothing new, Morris said.
“That’s every day,” he said. “The game is really fun playing with them, especially with Daeshon
and James, all my teammates. They’re unselfish. I’m unselfish. We all want to score, but if somebody’s open we’re not going to keep it. It’s like clockwork. Everybody eats on this team.”