Foul trouble, particularly to its most critical pieces, was a source of trouble for Tarleton State on Wednesday night.
The Texans played with one hand behind its back at the most pivotal moment of its biggest game of the year on Wednesday.
Coupled with a dominating performance in the clutch by Augustana of South Dakota, the Texans were eliminated from the NCAA Division II Elite Eight tournament in an 86-79 loss at the Dr Pepper Arena.
Alex Richter scored 32 for Augustana, including 15 in the final 5:40 of the game.
Up one, 71-70, Richter scored his team’s next 13 points.
We just couldn’t finish it with our best people.
Tarleton State coach Lonn Reisman
“We were in foul trouble a lot in the second half, and it seemed they were going to the free-throw line every time,” Tarleton coach Lonn Reisman said. “We just couldn’t finish it with our best people. I think when that happens, it’s really tough to overcome.”
Tarleton, the No. 7 seed in the Elite Eight tournament which advanced here by winning the South Central Region, shot 23 fewer free throws than the No. 2 Vikings (32-2), who also had 20 more successful attempts than the Texans (24-9).
26 Points by Tarleton State senior guard Michael Hardge, a career-high, including 23 in the last 20 .
EJ Reed, the Texans’ leading scorer; Romond Jenkins; and Chantz Chambers all played the second half in foul trouble.
Reed fouled out at the 4:20 mark, and Jenkins also fouled outfouls.
Chambers, who scored 16, picked up three fouls about as quickly as the 11 points he scored in a flash to start the game.
Senior guard Michael Hardge scored a game- and a career-high 26 points, including 23 in the last 20 minutes, for Tarleton, which enjoyed a home-court advantage from the super partisans who made the trip from Stephenville.
The Division II’s field of 64, meanwhile, has been pared to its Final Four. In addition to the Vikings, No. 1 seed Lincoln Memorial (Tenn.), West Liberty (W.Va.) advanced to Thursday night’s national semifinals. Western Oregon defeated Saginaw Valley (Mich.) 81-68 for the last berth.
While the Texans played without its best player in the final minutes, Augustana was without its best the entire game. Dan Jansen, a candidate for D-II player of the year, did not play because of a left foot injury he sustained in practice on Tuesday.