Texas State men’s basketball (8-4 overall, 2-1 Sun Belt) weathered a second-half surge by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (7-5 overall, 3-2 Sun Belt) to win 63-59 on Jan. 15.
The Bobcats were in full command of the game in the first half but the Trojans managed to get within shouting distance late in the game. After a scuffle in the last minute, Little Rock mounted a dramatic run in an attempt to take the lead.
After Little Rock’s junior forward Nikola Maric scored a layup to kick things off, Texas State went on a 23-4 run to lead 23-6 early on in the first half. All five starters scored in the first nine minutes of action for Texas State, led by junior guard Mason Harrell with seven points.
The teams traded buckets for the next eight minutes, with neither team mounting a significant run.
To close out the half, Little Rock’s junior guard Markquis Nowell scored four points as the Trojans mounted a 7-2 run in the last 2:30, closing their deficit to single digits at 34-25 heading into the break.
Harrell led all scorers at halftime with 11 points (4-7 FGS, 1-2 3FGS). Following Harrell for the Bobcats was graduate guard Marlin Davis with 8 points (3-5 FGS, 2-4 3FGS) and junior forward Alonzo Sule with 6 points (3-3 FGS).
As a whole, Texas State shot 46.4% (13-28) from the field, 35.7% (5-14) from beyond the arc and 75% (3-4) at the free-throw line. The Bobcats also held a slight 19-15 advantage on the boards.
Leading the way for Little Rock was Nowell with nine first-half points (1-4 3FGS, 6-6 FTS) and senior forward Ruot Monyyong, the Sun Belt Conference Preseason Player of the Year, with seven points (3-5 FGS) and six rebounds (three OR).
The Trojans struggled from the field in the first half as the Bobcats' defense held them to just 30.8% (8-26) from the field, 20% (2-10) on threes. Little Rock was able to pick up some easy points at the free-throw line, going 7-8.
Texas State picked up right where they left off to start the second half. Junior guard Caleb Asberry had eight points in the first seven minutes of the period to help the Bobcats build their lead to 47-32.
For most of the remaining time, the Trojans managed to prevent the Bobcats from pulling away further but also failed to significantly chip away at the lead.
With Texas State leading 59-48 in the final minute, Little Rock’s sophomore guard Marco Lukic converted a layup after an offensive rebound to bring the Bobcats lead back down to single digits. Immediately following the inbound, Asberry and Monyyong got tangled up along the baseline leading to Asberry being shoved out of bounds. Players from both teams rushed to their comrades’ aid and a small scuffle ensued. Davis and Nowell were caught in the thick of it and ended up throwing punches at each other, luckily none of the blows landed before coaches and officials separated the teams.
After a lengthy review, both Davis and Nowell were charged with flagrant twos and ejected from the game.
When play continued, Asberry turned the ball over off the inbound and Lukic found senior guard Ben Coupet Jr. for a three to bring the score to 59-53 with 0:44 left in the game. Harrell was then fouled after the inbound and went 2-2 at the line.
Monyyong responded with two straight layups following offensive rebounds to make the contest a two-possession game with 0:16 left on the clock. Little Rock once again intentionally fouled after the inbounds sending sophomore guard Addison Wallace to the line. Wallace missed the first free throw and Monyyong collected the board, leading to freshman guard Marko Andric converting two free throws on the fast break and making the score 61-59.
Texas State Interim Head Coach Terrence Johnson called a timeout with nine seconds left to advance the ball to half court. Addison once again found himself at the line following the inbound, this time hitting 2-2 and sealing the Bobcats’ 63-59 win.
For the game, the Bobcats shot 45.8% (22-48) overall and 39.1% (9-23) from distance and 83.3% (10-12) at the line. Texas State was able to pull off the victory despite being outrebounded 11-7 on the offensive boards and committing 20 turnovers compared to Little Rock’s 14.
Asberry scored 10 or more points for the sixth straight game, finishing with 18 points (7-16 FGS, 3-10 3FGS) to go along with four rebounds and two assists. Following Asberry in the scoring column was Harrell with 16 points (5-10 FGS, 2-4 3FGS) and three assists. Before being ejected, Davis registered a double-double with 12 points (4-8 FGS, 2-5 3FGS) and 10 rebounds.
While Little Rock managed to bring its field goal percentage up to 38.5% (20-52), the team lost its strong free-throw shooting from the first half and finished at only 61.9% (13-21) at the line.
Monyyong registered his fourth straight double-double, netting 14 points (6-9 FGS) and 10 rebounds (five OR). Maric finished with 13 points (6-14 FGS) and eight rebounds.
The teams will have less than 24 hours to recover and game plan before they play once again on Jan. 16 at 4 p.m.
While Johnson is proud of how his team played, he does not want his players to become complacent.
“Certainly these are back-to-back, and tomorrow is a new game,” Johnson said. “So although I am happy for our guys, the job is not done. No time to celebrate. We have to rest and rehab and be ready to get better tomorrow.”