Itâ€™s not March Madness just yet, but tonightâ€™s basketball doubleheader at UT Tyler could be a precursor.
The Patriots host huge home games against rival UT Dallas at the Herrington Patriot Center.
The women tip off at 5:30 p.m., followed by the men at 7:30 p.m. The contests will go a long way in determining seeding and perhaps home-court advantage for the American Southwest Conference Tournament.
This year the ASC East menâ€™s winner will host the tourney. Right now, that would be UT Tyler.
The Patriots (14-5) lead the East with a 9-4 mark, a game ahead of both UT Dallas and LeTourneau. Mississippi College is fourth at 7-6. Only four teams from the East and four teams from the West will earn postseason berths.
â€śWe need to be ready to play every night,â€ť UT Tyler coach Kenny Bizot said of the tight race. â€śYou can be in first place one day and fourth place the next. It is a very balanced league with many good players. We need to continue playing well and winning at home.â€ť
The Patriots have won three straight at home, including two barnburners â€” an 80-75 overtime win over Louisiana College and a last-second 74-71 win over Mississippi College.
Jordan Cannonâ€™s 3-pointer in the final seconds sent the LC game to OT, while Darren Houlistonâ€™s 3-pointer at the buzzer won the MC game.
Each night there is a different Patriot who steps up.
â€śI feel like the team has done a great job of coming together,â€ť Bizot said. â€śWe still have many areas to improve on and I feel like our best basketball is still ahead of us. We need to score better in the half court and need to rebound better. We must continue to play hard and continue to work on our fundamentals in our offense.
â€śWe play hard, we can defend, we are good in transition, we are a competitive group, and we have good team chemistry. Our goals are the same and that is to win basketball games. This team does not care who gets the points or the glory, they just want to win. We have adjusted to our roles very well. We may not like them, but we have put the team ahead of our own egos and it has worked out. We also have heart.â€ť
Three Patriots average in double figures â€” Travis Dykman (13.6 ppg), Houliston (13.1) and Cannon (11.8).
Houliston leads in rebounding at 7.3, while Dykman is tops in assists.
On Jan. 12, the Patriots fell to the Comets 87-77 in Richardson. If UT Tyler wants to win this go-round, the Patriots must stop Kyle Schleigh, who is averaging 20.6 points and 9.5 rebounds. The Comets are 13-6 overall.
The Patriots are hoping for a big crowd.
â€śYes, itâ€™s fun to play in front of a big crowd,â€ť Bizot said. â€śUTD will be busing students over, so they will be bringing a nice crowd. We are trying to get our students to come to the game. It will be a big game for our program â€” maybe the biggest game we have had in our short history. The next three home games are crucial to us hosting the East. Big crowds and energetic fans definitely help support our players on the floor.â€ť
The Patriot womenâ€™s team feels the same.
While they canâ€™t host the tournament this year, they certainly want to make the big event.
Louisiana College leads the East at 13-9, followed by UT Dallas (9-4), Mississippi College (8-5) and UT Tyler (7-6). Right behind are East Texas Baptist and Ozarks at 6-7.
The Patriots (12-7) lost a close, 72-66, game to UT Dallas on Jan. 12.
Brittany King tops UT Tyler in scoring (12.1) and rebounding (6.3). Sheâ€™Cara Humphrey is averaging 11.3 points, while Teylor Seals is next at 9.9. Danai Woods leads in assists (2.8).
Morgan Kilgore tops UTD at 12.6 points.
The ASC West winner hosts the womenâ€™s tournament. Howard Payne, which is located in Brownwood, is leading at 11-2, followed by Concordia and Hardin-Simmons at 9-4.
Following tonightâ€™s games, the Patriots will have home games against Ozarks on Saturday. The women play at 1 p.m., followed by the men at 3 p.m.
DYKMAN EARNS HONOR
UT Tylerâ€™s Travis Dykman has been named the American Southwest Conference East Division Co-Player of the Week. Dykman was instrumental in helping the Patriots go 2-0 in ASC play last week.
Dykman, a 6-3 junior from Crandall, averaged 19.5 points, four assists and three rebounds to fuel conference wins against Louisiana College and Mississippi College.
He poured in a career-high 26 points in a 74-71 victory against MC. Dykman shot 61 percent from the field and hit 8 of 11 free throws. He also added a steal to propel the Patriots into sole possession of first place in the East Division standings.
Dykman shared the honor with freshman Justin Jones of LeTourneau.
The junior from Waxahachie averaged 18.5 points and six rebounds in wins over UT Dallas and Ozarks.