In front of the second-largest crowd in Strahan Arena history, the No.3 Bobcats took care of business with an important 85-68 victory over Appalachian State in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Championship Tournament on Wednesday.
The Bobcats’ efficient offense and scrappy defense led them to an impressive win as the Bobcats never trailed a second throughout the entire 40 minutes of the White Out game.
Texas State came out of the gates hot making their first four field goals and jumping out to a commanding 10-3 lead.
Appalachian State threw a 1-3-1 look at Texas State for the majority of the first half but the Bobcats were able to find the lane and shoot 60% from the field in the first half.
The Bobcats went into the locker room at halftime with a comfortable 40-26 lead, but the Bobcats knew they had to continue to play hard because of some of the comebacks Appalachian State have pulled off this year.
The ‘Cats did just that and kept their foot on the gas as they added 45 more points while shooting 59% from the field in the second half. Texas State also saw its biggest lead of the game grow to 24 points at the 5:32 mark.
Junior forward Isiah Small put up a career-high 23 points on 9-11 shooting, including a crowd-rallying dunk and eight total points in the final 10 minutes. Small said he couldn’t have had a career game without his teammates.
“My teammates were able to find me and get me involved in the offense,” Small said. “In the last couple of games, I haven’t really been myself and this will help my confidence.”
With just over a minute left in play, senior guard Nijal Pearson and senior forward Eric Terry were subbed out for the last time at Strahan Arena to a cheering crowd. Pearson, who has made history as the Texas State all-time leading scorer this season, poured in 23 points in his final home game. Terry and Small dunked back-to-back in the beginning of the game to help the ‘Cats gain momentum, and Terry landed a total of 12 points on efficient 5-7 shooting in the game.
Pearson said staying aggressive and consistent is key in postseason.
“I just stayed aggressive and tried to get to my spots tonight,” Pearson said. “I wasn’t going to let anybody off the hook tonight I made sure to enforce my will.”
Texas State will hit the roads for New Orleans as they prepare to take on No. 2 South Alabama on Friday. The Bobcats last saw the Jaguars in a 58-54 loss on Tuesday, March 3, but the Bobcats are 8-4 all-time against the team.
Head Coach Danny Kaspar said he respects the Jaguars and their intensity of play.
“They have a good basketball team and they were picked to win the league in the preseason,” Kaspar said. “It’s going to be a very competitive, effort could be the difference in this game.”
Kaspar said he feels confident as his team prepares to take the trip to New Orleans.
“I’ve never felt more confident about a team winning this thing than I do with these guys,” Kaspar said. “If we continue to play with this intensity, I feel good about our trip this weekend.”
In the wake of the NCAA Tournament banning audiences for March Madness and the NBA postponing their season due to the coronavirus, no official news has been made about attendance at the Sun Belt Championship Tournament. As of now, the tournament is still on and welcome to the public at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA.
The Bobcats will look to carry their postseason momentum against No. 2 South Alabama in the Sun Belt semifinal at 2 p.m. on Saturday.