LAS VEGAS, Nev. (December 18, 2017) – Rollins led Midwestern State by 22 with 13 minutes to play, but the Tars couldn't hold on and fell to the Mustangs 81-79 in the first game of the Rollins Las Vegas Classic.
Rollins drops to 8-4 on the season while Midwestern State improves to 3-8.
Sam Philpott led the way with 25 points on a 10-of-15 shooting performance. Eric Castaneda put up 23 points and Deion Clark netted 20 to go along with six rebounds. The Tars shot 65 percent in the first half, but hit just 9-of-23 (39 percent) in the second. Rollins outrebounded its opponent for a fourth-straight game, beating the Mustangs on the glass 32-29.
Brandon Neel paced MSU and all scorers with 24 points while also recording five rebounds and four assists. Devante Pullum added 15 points and four assists while Josh Huntley chipped in 14 points off the bench.
Both teams were sluggish to start with the score tied at just 9-9 after the first five minutes. Rollins then started to roll and led 22-13 midway through the first. After MSU got to within seven, Castaneda caught fire and parked a 13-2 run to put the Tars in front 37-19 with 6:26 left in the half.
Rollins would later take a 51-34 lead into intermission.
The Tars advantage grew to as many as 63-41 with 12:34 left to play.
The Mustangs then brought out the full court press and started to chip away at the Tars, turning Rollins turnovers into points.
Rollins lead shrunk to 74-62 with 4:18 to play, but the advantage was cut in half after a quick 6-0 MSU run. The Mustangs made it a five-point game with two minutes left when they began to foul. Clark converted a pair at the line for the Tars, but Logan Hicks quickly drained a 3-pointer to make it a four-point game with 52 seconds left.
The Tars missed the front end of a one-and-one and Neel raced down the floor and cut the Tars lead to just 78-76 with 30 seconds to play. After a Castaneda free throw, Pullum tied the game with a deep three-pointer in the corner. Connor Mckim was stripped on the ensuing possession and Neel scored the go ahead bucket with five seconds left. Rollins desperation heave was off the mark and the Tars were left stunned.
The Tars are right back in action on Tuesday, December 19 facing off with eight-ranked West Texas A&M at 12 p.m. PT/3 p.m. ET in day two of the Rollins Las Vegas Classic. The Buffs scored a 65-62 win over Southern Indiana Monday afternoon. Fans can watch the action live on the Tars Sports Network at RollinsSports.com.