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Texas State senior guard Shelby Adams (4) dribbles around a Warhawk defender during a game against the University of Louisiana-Monroe, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, at Strahan Arena. The Bobcats won 80-56.

The fact that the Bobcats (10-4, 1-1 Sun Belt) hadn’t played a game in two weeks seemed quite evident Thursday night as their fresh legs helped them hustle to an 80-56 win over the ULM Warhawks (9-8, 1-4 Sun Belt).

The win snapped a two-game losing streak and was Texas State’s first in nearly a month, with its last victory coming over Paul Quinn on Dec. 18. It was also the first time the entire team was able to play together since Dec. 22, as multiple Bobcats were forced to miss their last game against Troy due to COVID-19 protocols. 

“It was a blessing," senior guard Shelby Adams said. “Some of us were just laying in bed for like five days, seven days straight. Like me for myself, I was just excited to get back to the facility, get back around the guys, shooting, practicing, talking a little, because that was rough, but I’m happy we’re all back.”

Any questions of potential rust were quickly assuaged as the Bobcats opened the game on a 14-4 run. The ‘Cats played fast and physical, scoring six points off turnovers in that opening run, including a transition layup after a steal by senior guard Mason Harrell.

Sophomore forward Nika Metshkvarishvili tried to pull the Warhawks back into the game with a tough finish around the rim followed by a steal on defense that would set up a fast-break three, making the score 16-11.

That three was followed by a 13-3 run for the Bobcats, fueled by six made freebies and capped off by a triple from senior guard Caleb Asberry in transition, giving Texas State a 29-14 lead. Texas State’s energy helped it get to the line and find easy looks after defensive stops. 

A few missed opportunities for the Bobcats let ULM climb back to within nine points. Senior forward Russell Harrison connected on a wide-open corner trey that was followed by a free throw from Metskhvarishvili to bring the score to 35-26.

Then Harrell caught fire. The 5’9” guard splashed back-to-back looks from distance, threw an alley-oop jam to senior forward Isiah Small on the next possession and wrapped that all up with deep two-pointer to make the score 45-26.

The teams would trade buckets from there until entering the half at 51-33. Texas State’s success clearly stemmed from its energy in the paint and ability to draw fouls. The Bobcats had 24 first-half rebounds to ULM’s 14 and shot 19 first-half free throws compared to just seven for the Warhawks.

Not much would change after half. A two from Russell would close the gap to 16 points at 51-35, but that’s the closest the game got from then on. The Warhawks connected on a single three-pointer after the break compared to Texas State’s five. A fast-break trey from sophomore guard Dylan Dawson then gave the ‘Cats their largest lead of the night at 69-40.

“I think you gotta figure out a way to guard the three-point against them,” Coach T.J. Johnson said. “They’re a very good three-point shooting team, and I think you gotta figure out a way to go get rebounds. I thought we did that tonight.”

Asberry led the way in treys with four makes, which helped him finish as the team’s top scorer with 19 points. He also collected a double-double after hustling his way to 10 rebounds.

“I felt like Caleb had fresh legs to be honest with you," Johnson said. "He was bouncing around a little bit, obviously he was taking the ball to the basket, not settling for the most part. He had some open looks, stayed within himself, stayed within the game plan. I’m proud of him.”

Three other Bobcats would finish with double-digit points. Adams and Harrell put up 14 points each, while Small rounded the group out with 13. Senior forward Nighael Ceaser also made his presence felt with three blocks on the night.

Metskhvarishvili and Russell tied for the most points for ULM with 15 each. Metskhvarishvili had his own double-double after grabbing 11 boards. No other Warhawk managed the crack double-digit points.

The Bobcats now prepare for their next game against Louisiana. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday at Strahan Arena in San Marcos. The game will air on ESPN+.

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