Texas State men’s Basketball (17-6 overall, 12-3 Sun Belt) defeated the University of Louisiana at Monroe Warhawks (7-18 overall, 5-13 Sun Belt) 61-57 on Feb. 27.
With the Bobcats capturing the Sun Belt Conference regular-season title the previous night, this game looked different as Texas State sat junior guard Mason Harrell and gave senior forward Isiah Small and senior guard Shelby Adams limited minutes to rest for the upcoming Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
The Bobcats' Interim Head Coach Terrence Johnson was also not present, due to COVID-19 protocols. Associate Head Coach Bennie Seltzer took the reins for Johnson for the third straight game.
Seltzer highlights the team’s collective efforts to win the game despite Johnson's absence along with the adjustments to the lineup.
“I thought our guys played well and competed especially with the circumstances," Seltzer says. "I thought collectively one through fourteen [players] all brought something to the table today. That was a complete, complete team win by our guys and I’m really happy for them.”
The Warhawks started the first half with a three-point jumper by senior guard Josh Nicholas. The Bobcats came back with a three-pointer from junior guard Caleb Asberry at the 18:07 mark.
A jump shot by freshman guard Deuce Guidry gave the Bobcats their largest lead of the game 18-10 at the 10:52 mark. In the second game of his college career, Guidry had all of his six points (2-4 FG, 2-3 3FG) in the first half.
Despite the lack of playing time throughout the season, Guidry got praise from Asberry who complimented his effort.
“He was big I’m not going to lie," Asberry says. "That’s our guy and he puts in work just like all of us and when his number was called, he produced."
ULM junior guard Marco Morency hit a three-pointer and a layup to make it a one-score game with 7:21 left in the half. Junior guard Russell Harrison shot a three-point jumper to grab a 19-18 lead.
A fast-break layup by Morency finished off a 13-0 run to give ULM a 23-18 lead with 5:31 left in the period.
A three by Guidry ended the Bobcats near seven-minute scoring drought but ULM finished the half leading 29-23.
At halftime, Asberry led the Bobcats with seven points (1-5 FG, 1-3 3FG, 4-4 FT) with two rebounds and a steal. Sophomore guard Addison Wallace led the squad with six rebounds.
For ULM, Nicholas had 11 points (4-5 FG, 3-3 3FG) with three rebounds and a block. Morency followed with seven points (3-4 FG, 1-1 3FG) with four rebounds and a steal.
Texas State started the second half with 10 unanswered points to lead 33-29 at the 16:44 mark of the period. Asberry scored four points and grabbed two rebounds in that span.
After a near five scoreless minutes, the Warhawks managed to put some points on the board with a layup from Nicholas on the fast break. Another layup from Nicholas tied up the score 33-33 at the 14:54 minute mark.
The Bobcats went on a 7-0 run, capped off by a fast-break layup by Adams, to lead 40-33 with 13:16 left in the half. ULM kept it close by scoring six of the next nine points to bring the score to 43-39.
Texas State scored four straight points from a jumper by Wallace and two free-throws by Asberry to lead 47-39 with 8:05 left in the game.
Texas State extended its lead to 52-44 with 5:02 remaining. ULM came back with eight straight points, finished off with a layup by Howell and a three-pointer by Ozier to tie the game 52-52 with 3:02 left in the contest.
With 1:12 left in the game, ULM took the lead 56-55 with two free throws from junior guard Elijah Gonzales. The Bobcats responded with a jumper by junior forward Nighael Ceasar to retake the lead at 57-56. Two free throws by Asberry extended the lead to 59-56 with 0:22 on the clock.
A missed shot by Ozier and a pair of free throws by Ceasar gave the Bobcats a 61-57 win.
Asberry led the game with 19 points (4-11 FG, 3-5 3FG, 8-8 FT) along with team-high seven rebounds.
Another key player for the Bobcats was Ceaser who finished the game with eight points (3-5 FG, 2-3 FT) with four rebounds. Seltzer commends Caesar's late-game efforts along with his toughness.
“Nighael, he’s a guy that plays hard," Seltzer says. "He’s tough, a great rebounder and he’s a really great free throw shooter, so he does a great job finishing a game because of those things. We’re very confident with Nighael being out there and closing the game out.”
The Bobcats ended the game shooting 43.2% (19-44) from the field, 46.7% (7-15) from the three-point line and 76% (16-21) from the free-throw line. The Warhawks finished shooting 37.3% (19-51) overall, 29.6% (8-27) from deep and 68.8% (11-16) from the charity stripe.
Texas State will now set its sights on the Sun Belt Conference Tournament from March 5-8 in Pensacola, Florida.