Buffs stay unbeaten at home with pair of home wins
Walk down the candy isle of Toot’n Totum or Pak-A-Sak and the answer is all around you of what the West Texas A&M men’s basketball is like when playing in Canyon.
Sweeter than a store of full of chocolate.
Home, sweet, home is how the Buffs continued to play in their latest Thursday and Saturday Lone Star Conference homestand pulling off a pair of wins and moving to 12-0 in the First United Bank Center for the 2022-23 season.
WT opened the two games inside the First United Bank Center on Thursday night having little trouble disposing of St. Mary’s 85-67 with senior forward Larry Wise scoring a game-high 21 points.
Then on a Saturday, in matchup between LSC leaders in the West Division (WT) and East Division (St. Edward’s), it was WT proving unstoppable by at least equaling a school record going 26-of-26 from the free throw line winning the physical game, 85-76.
The win lifted WT to its sixth straight win in a row, kept it atop the LSC West at 10-2 and moved to 20-6 overall.
WT head coach Tom Brown was all smiles over winning the pair of games and setting up quite a regular season finish with a home and home series against rival Lubbock Christian over three days Feb. 23-25.
“We needed these two because we are still just a half game ahead of Angelo State in the West,” said WT head coach Tom Brown. “I thought we played really well for the most part.”
The nine-point win over St. Edward’s (20-9 overall, 14-6 in the LSC) was the highlight victory of the two for the Buffs and at least tied a school and conference record for free throw shooting.
Seven Buffs combined to go 26-of-26 from the free the line for a shooting percentage of 100 percent.
WT senior guard an d prolific scorer Damion Thornton led the way going 8-of-8 from the line and finishing with 15 points. Then the Buffs highly-skilled senior point guard Julius Brown was 6-of-6 from the line scoring a team-high 19 points.
WT forged a 10-point lead over St. Ed’s at halftime on the strength of 9-of-9 from the line and 9-of-16 from 3-point range.
The Buffs held off a spirited St. Ed’s team in the second half – things got chippy to say the least – with Zach Toussaint converting a 4-point play after being knocked to the ground attempting a 3-pointer for a 69-54 lead with 9:40 to play, then Wise forcing two turnovers under the four-minute mark, Brown hitting a three and Thornton a clutch two late in the shot clock for an 81-70 lead with 1:12 to play.
Uche Dibiamaka led all scorers in game with 23 points giving the Buffs fits all gamed on 8-of-13 shooting from the floor.
“St. Ed’s is a really good team, and they were coming off a game (Thursday) where LCU pounded them pretty good,” Brown said. “So I give them credit for the way they came after us. I give our guys credit for not doing anything foolish and played through it. Then of course we knocked down our free throws.”
Thornton said WT has all the respect for St. Ed’s “because they can really shoot that thing. Thank God for our guys who made shots and I don’t think we missed a free throw.”
On Thursday, WT’s 18-point victory over St. Mary’s (14-10, 11-8) was really never in doubt with the Buffs placing five players in double figures scoring in Wise with 21, Brown with 17, and then Addison Wallace, Ryland Holt and Toussaint each added 10 points.
The Buffs led 43-36 at halftime and never trailed in the second half.
St. Mary’s was led by Ryan Leonard’s 13 points, with Caleb Jordan and Mamady Djikine each adding 12.
Next up for the Buffs will be that home-and-home series vs. LCU starting Thursday at the FUB, then moving to LCU on Saturday.
A Buffs sweep of LCU guarantees a LSC title, but a LCU sweep could knock WT off the top perch.
“So these two are huge for us,” Brown said. “If we don’t take care of business, we could walk away with nothing.”
Thornton, a transfer from Southwestern Oklahoma State where he was the schools’ all-time leading scorer, has never played in the WT-LCU rivalry which has a reputation of being physical and entertaining.
“I heard it it’s crazy and wild and I’m crazy and wild,” Thornton said breaking into a grin. “I’m ready for it, man. I’ve heard all the rivalry stuff and look forward to the energy.”
Lady Buffs stay strong at home
The West Texas A&M Lady Buffs continue to be as strong as any team in the nation when it comes to playing on their home floor.
Thanks to a pair of wins over St. Mary’s 48-34 on Thursday and a convincing 78-57 victory against St. Edward’s on Saturday, the Lady Buffs move to 12-0 at the First United Bank Center on the season while running their home win streak to 26 straight games.
“Defending home court is so important,” WT women’s coach Joshua Prock said. “Especially during conference. We’ve really stepped up at home this season and played really well.”
WT, which have been included in the initial NCAA Division II South Central Regional rankings, are now 20-8 overall and 13-7 in the Lone Star Conference. The Lady Buffs will close the regular season with a pair of matchups against I-27 rival Lubbock Christian this weekend. WT will host LCU at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, then visit the Lady Chaps at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
The WT defense locked down St. Mary’s on Thursday night holding the Rattlers to 11 first half points and 19.7 percent shooting. Offensively, the Lady Buffs had a plethora of scoring led by Wellington graduate and freshman guard Kyla Kane. Kane scored a team-high 11 points as did Azia Himeur and Lauren Taylor added 10. Taylor also snagged 10 rebounds for a double-double.
On Saturday against the Hilltoppers, the Lady Buffs shot lights out going 28-of-53 (52.8 percent) from the field to pick up their 20th win on the year. Once again Kane was magnificent scoring 21 points going 3-of-5 from beyond the arc with six rebounds. Nyalam Thabach also poured in 21 points followed by Lauren Taylor with 1
“It was a big weekend for us,” Prock said. “We’ve battled injuries and a lot of adversity, but I still feel we are playing really well. I was really impressed with our defense and I liked the way the offense started to click. Kyla (Kane) played tremendous; Lauren (Taylor) really stepped up. We just have to continue this momentum.”
– Kale Steed