WTAMU Buffs roll past Angelo State into South Central regional semifinals

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WTAMU guard Ryland Holt looks to pass against Angelo State during an NCAA Division II South Central Regional quarterfinal matchup on Saturday night at the First United Bank Center. [Joe Garcia III/ Press Pass Sports]
Although ranked at No. 9 in the nation, West Texas A&M entered Saturday’s South Central Regional tourney with even the staunchest Buffs fans asking questions.

What’s wrong with the 26-4 Buffs?

After owning the No. 1 ranking in the nation for six weeks, WT had lost its Mojo losing three of its last four games, exiting the Lone Star Conference tournament last week in the quarterfinals to a Cameron team which lost in the next round.

Calm down. Calm down.

That’s the message WT sent Saturday evening looking impressive in beating familiar LSC foe Angelo State 81-66 in the Division II South Central Regional quarterfinal before 1,308 at the First United Bank Center.

The Buffs (27-4) head to the South Central semifinals taking on another LSC team in Dallas Baptist (25-5) at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday night. DBU defeated Colorado School of Mines (24-9) in the last quarterfinals game 86-73 on Saturday night.

The other semifinal tips at 5 p.m. and is all Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference matchup between Fort Lewis College (29-3) and Colorado Mesa University (28-4).

Fort Lewis advanced by beating LSC’s Lubbock Christian (23-11), 86-72. Mesa advanced by handing Eastern New Mexico (22-10) a 95-77 in the day’s opening quarterfinal.

Saturday marked the seventh time in 15 months ASU and WT had met, the third time this season.

WT has now won six of those games, including an overtime road win in San Angelo on Feb. 10.

WT coach Tom Brown said his team had a chance to refocus after the surprising LSC tournament loss and did a good job of preparing for Angelo State by focusing on details during practices.

“Angelo State is a very good team,” Brown said. “But we are a good team, too. I think it helps playing at home. The crowd was behind us. I think it was a good win for the Buffs.”

WT’s big four all season long came through in a strong way with senior Larry Wise, senior Zach Toussaint, senior Ryland Holt and freshman Kieran Elliott each hitting for double figures.

WTAMU guard Larry Wise scored a game-high 26 points against Angelo State on Saturday. [Joe Garcia III/ Press Pass Sports]
Wise, the LSC player of the year, led all scorers with 26 point ending a minor slump he has been in. Wise was more than efficient from the flooring making 7-of-13 field goal attempts, going 10 of 12 from the free throw line and adding seven rebounds.

Wise said playing a team you know very well is all about details.

“When you get to play a conference opponent like that you kind of know what to expect going into the game,” Wise said. “We tried to focus on details, especially after our previous games and try clean up on things. We tried focus on that and especially the different matchups and the looks they would give us. They have good players so we kind of knew what we had to do.”

Guard Toussaint added 19 points on the strength of five 3-pointers, and is now 16 treys away from becoming the all-time leader in 3-pointers in WT history.

Freshman Elliott continues to play like a vet adding 16 points and six rebounds. Elliott poured in 10 of the 11 free throws he attempted.

Holt, the defensive player of the year in the LSC, help contain Angelo State’s dangerous Kevon Goodwin to 10 points on seven shots. Holt also added offense with 15 points and led the Buffs with nine rebounds.

The Buffs played an interesting first half in that it jumped out to an 11-3 lead, but Angelo State made its first six 3-pointers and led 29-28 with 4:14 to play in the first half.

Zach Toussaint of WTAMU fires a 3-pointer on Saturday night against Angelo State. [Joe Garcia III/ Press Pass Sports]
It was Toussaint who ignited the key run of the game as the Buffs outscored Angelo State 15-2 the final four minutes of the half taking a 43-31 lead into intermission.

With the Buffs leading 31-29 after guard Ahamed Mohammed found Holt for an easy basket, the shot clock was running out on a WT possession.

The ball found its way to Toussaint way out on the WT logo – like 35 feet from the basket – and he scooped and shot the ball. His swish 3-pointer was the first points he scored in the game and put the Buffs ahead 34-29 with three minutes to play in the half.

“That was a crazy shot,” Wise said.

“I think it was a good tip back by Kieran,” Toussaint said, who has made 733 career 3-pointers. “I was open so it wasn’t that hard. During that 15-2 run we had all sorts of defense going on really playing together. We are hard to stop when that happens.”

By the end of the half Toussaint had added four free throws and another 3-pointer, while Elliott contributed two free throws for the 12-point lead.

Angelo State never cut the margin under 10 points in the second half.

“We came out that second half ready to go,” Brown said. “ We kept that lead above10. … I thought Ryland Holt’s defense was fantastic. When you can limit Godwin to five or six shots that was great for us. Because that kid can really play.”

Angelo State, coached by former Buff assistant Vinay Patel, was led in scoring with 21 points by Keyshawn Embery-Simpson. Senior Willie Guy added 15, while Godwin rounded out the Rans double figure scorers with 10.

“I thought that separation at half was huge,” said Patel, in his second year. “Hats off to them they are really good. I talked to Tom before the game and just the way we do this, this is the seventh time we have played them in two years. It’s frustrating having to do this every time against WT. But until we decide to fix something at WT it’s going to keep happening. At the end of the day, I’m glad we are playing them because we are in the postseason and playing. So, we are doing something right. But we have to get back to the stage where we can get back here, and we can beat them.”

TOURNEY TALK

Former Palo Duro legendary coach Jeff Evans is a first-year assistant coach for Fort Lewis. … Evans and Lubbock Christian head coach Todd Duncan were boyhood friends growing up in Lubbock together. “We had yard mowing business together and he was the best man in my wedding and I was in his,” Duncan said. “It’s not a lot fun for us coaching against each other.” … The official attendance for the WT_ASU game was listed at 1,306. Looked double that to these old eyes. … Fort Lewis and Colorado Mesa met on March 9 for the RMAC championship won by Fort Lewis, 86-75.

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