Grant’s double-double leads No. 5 Buffs past Rams
West Texas A&M guard Qua Grant goes up for a lay-in over Angelo State’s Burone Edwards during a Lone Star Conference game Thursday night at the First United Bank Center. [Tom Carver/ Press Pass Sports]
Home isn’t sweet for West Texas A&M.
The First United Bank Center is an entire pastry bakery.
Despite a sluggish start, No. 4-ranked West Texas A&M used a Qua Grant-propelled 18-2 run in the second half to dump Angelo State 88-73 in Lone Star Conference men’s basketball action Thursday night.
The win upped the Buffs home winning streak to 35 in a row, the longest home winning streak for any men’s NCAA college basketball team – regardless of classification - in the U.S.
West Texas (16-1, 8-1) also remained atop the LSC standings, building a two-game cushion on second place Angelo State (10-3, 6-3).
“I love playing at home,” said Grant, the Buffs second-half sparkplug who lit Angelo State up for 32 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
“I think the winning streak is great for the fans,” said West Texas sixth-year coach Tom Brown. “I’m not sure fans realize how hard it is just wo win one college basketball game. But now that we are here (at 35) let’s get 100.”
This game was in doubt big-time three-minutes into the second half when Angelo State decided to feed post Ibarguen over and over and the senior responded with four consecutive baskets building a 47-43 lead with 17:07 remaining.
Angelo State coach Cinco Boone, who said the two-game trip to West Texas and Eastern New Mexico is the toughest pair of back-to-back road games in the LSC, was pleased where his talented team was at the time.
“I thought we executed our game plan in the first half like we wanted,” Boone said. “I thought in the second half , to play on the road here you can’t have 26 turnovers and miss 12 free throws like we did. Some of those front ends of one and ones. When you have empty possessions like that you are just handing the game to them. It’s hard to win on the road, especially here.”
Down four, that’s when the Buffs produced the key run of the game with the stocky 6-0 sophomore Grant providing key basket after key basket.
West Texas rolled off a 20-4 during a seven-minute span building a 63-48 lead with 10 minutes to play.
The Buffs took the lead for good 49-48 on a Grant 3-pointer from out top with 14:41 to play.
Grant’s 3-pointer, one of two treys he made, was the start of stretch where he beat the Anglo State man defense inside, along with getting to the free throw line, and cored 13 points in a row.
“Coach (Brown) just told us what we needed to do at halftime,” said Grant, who was 10-of-21 from the floor and 10-of-12 from the line. “He really got after us at halftime. We did play sluggish that first half. I feel like the early turnovers they had we felt like ‘Oh, this is going to be a light game’ and it wasn’t. We got complacent. And then I thought in the second half we got out transition game going.”
Grant led all scorers with his 32 points, while fellow sophomore guard Joel Murray added 20 for the Buffs. Grant and Murray were the lone WT players in double figures.
“That’s a really good basketball team Angelo State has,” Brown said. “They have experience and Cinco does a great job with them. They have beaten Lubbock Christian twice already and they get after it.
“I think once we get Qua out is space and get him going down hill, you can throw in any football cliche there, it’s helps everybody. Hey, this was a good win for us.”
The Buffs did force 26 turnovers and held Angelo State to 3-of-17 shooting from 3-point range.
Ibarguen led the Rams with 27 points, while Jeremy Hayes added 15, and Collin Turner 14.
“Ibarguen had a great game,” Brown said. “But I was pleased with how with hung in there and played much better in the second half.”
The Buffs had to play catchup the entire first half after Angelo State sent the message early it was not going to be intimidated by WT’s national ranking and massive home winning streak.
Angelo State used the inside game of Ibarguen and outside shooting of senior Turner to build a 17-7 lead just more than six minutes into the game.
Ibarguen threw down a dunk and Turner scored five of the opening 17 on a 3-pointer and 15-footer.
Despite the sluggish opening 10 minutes, West Texas used a 16-2 to keep in the game at halftime using a pair of 3-pointers from freshman Zach Toussaint and the overall play of sophomore guard Grant to ignite the run.
Angelo State also hit a nearly four-minute scoring drought, partly due to poor shot selection and partly due to the Buffs renewed effort on defense, leaving WT down 37-36 at halftime.
The Buffs actually would have led at halftime if not for a near one-handed halfcourt shot made by the Rams’ Hayes.
“We knew Grant and Murray are there playmakers,” Boone said. “Both had two fouls in the first half and they really responded in the second half. This is the toughest place to play in the LSC and thought Qua was a lot more aggressive in the second half.”
West Texas returns to action at 4 p.m. Saturday meeting Lubbock Christian.
For complete game stats of Thursday’s game go to