Texas State men’s basketball (6-3) defeated Northern Arizona (0-5) 70-65 in the final game of both the Denver Classic and pre-conference slate Dec. 21.
After 11 lead changes and nine ties, the Bobcats' strong defensive play and the offensive production of junior guard Caleb Asberry ultimately led to the five-point win over the Lumberjacks.
Beginning the first half, Asberry sunk his first two jump shots to tie the game at 4-4. Soon after, Asberry had a brief scare as he rolled his ankle, exiting the game to get it wrapped and eventually re-entering.
Texas State came out aggressive on defense and caused four turnovers within the first seven minutes of the game while also handling the ball well, recording only one turnover within that time. Midway through the first half, the game was tied 13-13 until Texas State scored back-to-back layups, one by Asberry and the other by senior guard Mason Harrell, extending its lead 19-13. After two scoreless minutes by both teams, redshirt freshman forward Carson Towt would end the scoring drought with a layup for NAU.
With just over seven minutes left until halftime, senior forward Isiah Small scored five straight points to give the Bobcats their biggest lead of the night at 24-15. The Lumberjacks responded with a 9-0 run to tie the game 24-24 with 2:59 left in the period.
The teams traded baskets for the remainder of the half and went into the break with Texas State leading 29-28.
The Bobcats shot the ball 44.8% (13-29 field goals, 2-9 three-pointers) in the first half, along with 13 rebounds and seven assists. The Bobcats also had five steals and scored eight points off 10 turnovers by NAU.
Small led all scorers at the half after surging for 10 points (4-6 field goals) and three rebounds (two offensive). Asberry had six points (3-6 field goals), three rebounds and a team-high three assists in the opening 20 minutes.
The Lumberjacks shot 61.1% (11-18 field goals, 3-8 three-pointers) from the field, grabbed 11 rebounds and assisted on seven of its shots. NAU forced five turnovers only leading to four points. The Lumberjacks had great productivity off the bench with 13 total points.
For NAU, junior guard Cameron Shelton played 19 minutes of the 20-minute half and led the team in points (8, 2-3 field goals), rebounds (4) and assists (3). Behind Shelton was freshman guard Carter Mahaney with six points and an assist.
Starting the second half, both teams got out to a hot start, shooting a combined 7-8 as the Lumberjacks took a slight 36-35 lead. Texas State then went on an 8-0 run to take the lead 43-36. In the first six minutes of the period, Asberry had 10 points and junior forward Alonzo Sule had four, combining for the Bobcats' first six buckets.
NAU fought back and tied the game at 53-53 after a three-point shot from Mahaney with 8:12 left in the game. Both teams went quiet for another two minutes before a jumper by Shelton broke the stalemate. On the next play, the momentum shifted in Texas State's favor as Asberry dished the ball to Small for a dunk, picking up his fourth assist.
After two free-throws by Asberry, Harrell would sink a deep three at the 4:57 mark to give the Bobcats a 60-55 advantage. In the final five minutes, Texas State would shoot 5-6 from the field, led by Harrell with eight points, and win the game 70-65.
Texas State shot 65.4% (17-26, 4-7 three-pointers) in the second half en-route to a season-high 54.5% (30-55, 6-16 three-pointers) from the field for the game. Impressively, the Bobcats won the game shooting a season-low five free throws, going 4-5 from the line. Texas State grabbed 23 rebounds and dished out 18 assists. The Bobcats also forced 16 turnovers (10 steals) and had four blocks.
Asberry led the Bobcats in scoring for the third consecutive game, finishing with 21 points (8-14 field goals), along with five rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Following Asberry in the scoring column was Harrell with 13 (3-5 three-pointers), followed by Small (5-8 field goals) and Sule (6-10 field goals) with 12 each. Small led the team with six rebounds (three offensive), to go with two assists, two blocks and a steal.
The Lumberjacks also shot the ball well, connecting on 56.8% (25-44, 7-19 three-pointers) of their shots. NAU grabbed 22 rebounds, dished out 14 assists and forced nine turnovers. The Lumberjacks bench combined for 23 points.
NAU’s Shelton finished with game-highs in points (22, 7-10 field goals) and assists (6). In the Lumberjacks’ supporting cast, Mahaney stepped up big with 14 points (6-8 field goals), and Towt scored 11 points (5-5 field goals) with four rebounds. Additionally, junior guard Luke Avdalovic contributed nine points, all from three-pointers.
Texas State men’s basketball will be back in action Jan. 1-2, 2021, with back-to-back road matchups against the University of Louisiana-Lafayette to begin Sun Belt Conference play. Game one will be played at 6 p.m. and game two will be at 4 p.m.