James McPherson knocks down a 3-pointer. Josh Morris slams down a dunk. Daeshon Francis drives, adjusts, and scores off the glass.

All systems are firing — and UTPB is already up 10.

The No. 13 UTPB men’s basketball team charged out to an early lead and never looked back in a 103-74 thrashing of rival Angelo State on Thursday night in the Falcon Dome, which played out like a start-to-finish celebration for a Falcons team vying for a regular-season conference championship down the stretch, and playing like a title contender.

Morris’ dunk followed McPherson’s 3-pointer in the opening moments of the game, then Francis’ lay-in put UTPB up 12-2 just three minutes into the contest, and the Falcons charged on.

UTPB dished a season-high 31 assists, playing together to avenge an earlier loss to Angelo State, and move to 13-2 in the Lone Star Conference. The Falcons are tied with No. 8 West Texas A&M atop the league standings, with three games left on the schedule.

The Falcons have their shot at earning a second consecutive regular-season conference crown, and Thursday, they played like it.

“It’s the best we’ve ever played,” UTPB head coach Andy Newman said, moments after the win, and moments after an all-Falcons finish that freed UTPB to celebrate up 30 in the final minutes.

“That was a fun game,” Francis echoed with a smile.

Morris led UTPB with 24 points, while Francis added 22, McPherson scored 21, Sammy Allen pitched in 14 and forward Andres Villa added another 10 off the bench.

UTPB cruised to avenge an 84-83 loss to Angelo State on Jan. 13. Angelo State entered Thursday’s game as the only Lone Star Conference team the Falcons hadn’t beaten at least once this season.

Thursday, the Falcons rectified that.

“Every loss, you’ve got to remember the last taste it left in your mouth,” Francis said.

Francis neared a triple-double, hauling in 14 rebounds to go with his 22 points and finishing with eight assists. Allen came two assists shy of a triple-double too, while pulling in 11 rebounds to go with his 14 points.

UTPB led 50-38 at halftime. Angelo State never held a lead.

The Falcons’ 31 team assists tied a season-high, with the other occurrence coming against struggling Western New Mexico. This time, the Falcons made it happen by playing with unity against the team that beat UTPB in San Angelo in January. UTPB mustered just 15 assists in that earlier, bitter loss that snapped what was an 11-game winning streak for UTPB.

“It was a revenge game,” Morris admitted Thursday. “I remember we were in the top 10, and they beat us and knocked us out of top 10, something like that, by one point. It really hurt us.

“It happened. They played good at home. We just took this game personal. We were ready for this game.”

Firing on all cylinders, the Falcons play their last home game Saturday against Texas A&M-Kingsville.

The Falcons then close the regular season on the road next week at Tarleton State and Texas A&M-Commerce. UTPB is vying for a second consecutive regular-season conference title, in a race with West Texas A&M. UTPB and West Texas A&M traded wins in their two games this season.

“We’ve only got four more games left, and everybody’s realizing that it’s about to come to an end,” Allen said, speaking of how the Falcons entered Thursday.

“That’s a great way to start the four games. It’s a big four games.”

UTPB will hold its Senior Day festivities Saturday, for a group of seniors that helped rewrite the program’s history books and cut down nets last season, and carried the magic on to this season.

Seniors like Francis, McPherson, Allen and Morris transferred to UTPB ahead of their junior seasons on the second or third leg of their college careers, and pulled together to turn what was a rag-tag bunch of talented transfers into a cohesive team that’s lifted UTPB to its two most successful seasons ever.

“I’m going to miss playing here,” Morris said. “These fans, they’re like family. This whole program, this school, gave me a second opportunity at my career. I’m grateful to everything it’s given me.

“I might cry,” he laughed.

After Thursday’s blowout win, though, the Falcons were all smiles.

No. 13 UTPB 103, Angelo State 74

ANGELO STATE (17-8 overall, 8-7 Lone Star)

Ja’Michael Brown 4-15 5-6 13, Will Adler 1-2 0-0 2, Brandon Williams 0-1 0-0 0, James Kirksey 6-9 2-5 15, Antonio Singleton 2-6 4-4 9, Kiair Crouch 0-4 0-1 0, Daron Mims 5-8 3-4 13, Devaughn Jenkins 1-2 3-5 5, Ran Tut 3-5 1-2 8, Davion Cole-Johnson 4-10 0-0 9, William Tchiengang 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-63 18-27 74.

UTPB (21-3, 13-2)

James McPherson 7-12 2-2 21, Amari Bryant 1-1 0-0 3, Daeshon Francis 7-15 8-9 22, Sammy Allen 4-7 5-7 14, Josh Morris 11-15 2-4 24, Garrett Baggett 2-7 2-3 7, Andres Villa 5-8 0-1 10, Renard Thomas 1-1 0-2 2. Totals 38-66 19-28 103.

Halftime — UTPB 50, Angelo State 38. 3-Point goals — Angelo State 4-23 (Kirkey 1, Singleton 1, Tut 1, Cole-Johnson 1); UTPB 8-13 (McPherson 5, Bryant 1, Allen 1, Baggett 1). Total fouls — Angelo State 23, UTPB 24. Fouled out — UTPB: Morris. Technical fouls — None. Rebounds — Angelo State 28 (Kirksey 10); UTPB 48 (Francis 14). Assists — 9 (Brown 8); UTPB 31 (Three tied with 8).

Lone Star Conference Standings

                                          Overall    Conference

Team                                 W      L      W        L

West Texas A&M…………. 23      2      13        2

UTPB………………………….. 21      3      13        2

Tarleton State……………… 16      9      11        5

Texas A&M-Commerce… 18      7      10        6

Angelo State……………….. 17      8        8        7

Cameron…………………….. 10    15        6      10

Midwestern State…………. 10    16        6      10

Eastern New Mexico…….. 10    14        5      10

Texas A&M-Kingsville….. 11    14        4      11

Western New Mexico……… 4    20        1      14


Feb. 15

UTPB 103, Angelo State 74

Cameron 82, Western New Meico 78

West Texas A&M 88, Texas A&M-Kingsville 60

Midwestern State 91, Eastern New Mexico 72

Feb. 17

Cameron at Eastern New Mexico, 4 p.m.

Northern New Mexico at Tarleton State, 4 p.m.

Texas A&M-Kingsville at UTPB, 4 p.m.

Angelo State at West Texas A&M, 4 p.m.

Midwestern State at Western New Mexico, 5 p.m.