STEPHENVILLE–In the first round of the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Tournament, eighth-seeded St. Mary’s put a scare into top seed Tarleton State and 2,146 rowdy fans in Stephenville, but ultimately fell short by a 70-64 count to the South Central Region host Saturday night at Wisdom Gymnasium.

The game was tightly contested much of the way, but some untimely turnovers and a few difficult calls that went against the Rattlers down the stretch proved the difference in a game that saw eight lead changes and eight ties.

“I’m really proud of our kids,” said St. Mary’s Head Coach Jim Zeleznak.  “Our men showed up tonight, but just a few things didn’t go our way.”

Several Rattlers turned in impressive displays in defeat, and the bench was especially impressive, outscoring Tarleton State’s reserves 37-11.  Nick Morey (Jr., Belpre, Ohio) had 14 points and 11 rebounds, leading the Rattlers in both categories.  Marcus Hill (Sr., Longview) and Allen Coleman (Sr., Corpus Christi) both scored 12 for St. Mary’s.

“Nick’s year started out kind of rotten with an injury,” said Zeleznak.  “But he played really well down the stretch this season.”

Were the game a boxing match, it might have been a draw.  Both teams had the same number of made field goals on the night, and the Rattlers had a significantly better percentage on the evening, 52% to 43%.  They also outrebounded the Texans, 38-30.  But the Texans had six fewer turnovers and capitalized well on Rattler miscues, scoring 19 points off of turnovers to seven for the Rattlers.  Tarleton State also managed to get five more makes from the charity stripe and one more three-pointer than St. Mary’s, enough for the difference in the game.

Early in the game, however, things looked like they might get out of hand, as Tarleton State started off the game with a 12-3 run.  The Rattlers tried to narrow that lead early with three-pointers by Marcus Hill and Rod Bellard, but both makes were immediately answered by the Texans’ sharpshooting Avery Patterson, who hit what appeared at the time to be momentum-killing threes; Patterson led all scorers with 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting.

Undeterred, the Rattlers slowly rallied, going on an 11-6 run of their own, and finally took the lead off another Rod Bellard three-pointer with 7:27 to go in the first half.  Though the Rattlers were only able to extend the lead to four, they managed to hang close despite not scoring from the field in the last 5:36; going into the break, St. Mary’s only trailed by two.

With the loss the Rattlers finished the 2007-08 season with a 17-13 record, while Tarleton State moves on to the South Central Region semifinals. They are 24-6 overall.

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