Texas State men’s basketball (15-6 overall, 9-3 Sun Belt) picked up its second consecutive win against the University of Texas at Arlington Mavericks (11-11 overall, 7-7 Sun Belt) on Feb. 13.
Texas State’s dominance never looked in serious jeopardy after taking the lead four minutes into the game at 7-6, mostly due to precise shooting from the Bobcats in the first half as they went 63% (17-27 FG, 4-7 3FG) from the floor.
Several younger members of the Bobcat roster got their chances against the Mavericks, filling in for some of the team’s more seasoned players, like senior guard Shelby Adams and graduate guard Marlin Davis. The most notable among the rotations was freshman guard Dylan Dawson, who scored all nine of his points from three-pointers.
UTA, while not impressive in its scoring, did manage to capitalize on the mistakes Texas State committed in transition, often scoring after a tipped or misplaced pass by Texas State. Sophomore guard Nicolas Elame (14 PTS, 5-6 FG, 2-2 3PT) converted the chances he took, while junior guard Shahada Wells (17 PTS, 6-13, 5-8 3PT) led the line in scoring as the focal point of the Mavericks' offense. Wells' accuracy from deep was a big reason why the early Bobcat lead did not turn into a blowout.
Junior guard Caleb Asberry (20 PTS, 8-15 FG, 3-6 3PT) scored 11 points in the first half, including a dunk after tipping the ball away from a UTA player dribbling down the court to make it 9-6 at the 16:04 mark.
Senior forward Isiah Small (21 PTS, 6-9 FG, 8-8 FT, 10 REB, 2 BL) matched Asberry’s scoring output in the first half with 11 and finished the game with the team-high in points and rebounds along with a double-double. The Mavericks had no answer for the forward under the rim as his two blocks stopped UTA's momentum in its tracks.
The Mavericks were similarly troubled by the physical junior forward Nighael Ceaser, who got eight of his 10 total points in the first half. His early start contributed to the largest uncontested scoring run of the game for the Bobcats, going 13-0 from 17:10 to 13:09 to swing a four-point deficit into a nine-point lead. Ceaser even ripped the ball out of the hands of a rebounding UTA player to help widen the gap at the end of the game with his free throws.
Lapses in concentration by Texas State kept its opponent in the game, a 16-point lead wilting into seven at 1:04 and ending up at 12 to end the half 42-30.
Asberry resumed his scoring spree in the second half with two threes. He played a large part in keeping UTA out of the game, despite its best efforts in the middle of the second half once it implemented a full-court press. At the peak of their offensive prowess, the Bobcats boasted a 20-point gap at the 12:51 gap. The prospect of a Maverick comeback looking grimmer by the minute.
The lead never seemed in danger until five minutes before the end of regulation, when two consecutive threes by sophomore Patrick Mwamba (12 PTS, 4-9 FG, 3-7 3FG) took the lead into single digits for the first time since the 1:04 mark in the first half.
Texas State looked unfocused in the face of the UTA pressure, forcing shots and passes in the early seconds of the shot clock. Bobcat shooting accuracy took a nose-dive in the second half, only converting 34.5% (10-29) of their chances to accompany their five turnovers in the same period of time.
Down seven with just 2:22 to go, UTA fouled Texas State to try and get back into the game. The logical decision to hack Small backfired on the Mavericks, as he made all four of his shots from the stripe in the last minutes of the game. Small swatted a UTA player’s layup in the last seconds to further sink the hopes of the Mavericks, who eventually relented and accepted their second loss of the series 79-68.
Texas State hosts Arkansas State University for one game at 6 p.m. on Feb. 16 at Strahan Arena to make up for a series that was postponed earlier in the season due to COVID-19 protocols. The Bobcats will then visit the Red Wolves for a two-game series on from Feb. 19-20. All three games will be streamed on ESPN+.