Texas State men’s basketball (4-3) snapped a two-game losing streak Dec. 15, defeating Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (1-6) 51-46.
Texas State Interim Head Coach Terrence Johnson was pleased with his team’s performance after their loss to Our Lady of the Lake University on Dec. 12.
“The lesson for my guys is that if you trust the process and you keep on keeping on and you just get up one more time- you give yourselves a chance,” Johnson said. “All we did tonight is we got up and we gave ourselves a chance. We showed up and I’m proud of these guys.”
The Bobcats started off slow on both ends of the court to start the first half. Texas State began 1-5 from the field as the Islanders went on an 11-2 run in the early going, forcing Johnson to call a timeout just over four minutes into the half.
Out of the timeout, junior forward Nighael Ceaser was subbed in and provided an immediate offensive spark for the Bobcats. Caeser scored five straight points for Texas State to close the gap to 13-7.
With 11:46 left in the half, the Bobcats came as close as 15-12 before TAMU-CC jumped ahead once again leading 23-15 with 9:20 to go.
At this point, Texas State went on a 12-0 run, led by senior guard Shelby Adams with five points, to take the lead 27-23 with just over two minutes left in the half.
The first half came to a close with the Bobcats leading 27-25.
As a whole, Texas State shot 52.4% (11-21) from the field, 20% (1-5) on from beyond the arc and 57.1% (4-7) at the line.
Caeser led all scorers at the break with 10 points on 4-4 shooting. Johnson says that Ceaser listened to what he was telling his players and took action once on the court.
“Today I thought what separated [Ceaser] was his ability to get great post-up positioning, to not get pushed out as far,” Johnson said. “Early on I thought our post players were a little bit too high up the floor and it clogged up room. Nighael he heard that and he listened and he came in and established himself lower… When he’s playing comfortable he plays really, really hard and he competes.”
Following Ceaser for Texas State was junior guard Mason Harrell with seven points (3-4, 1-2 three-pointers) and Adams with six points. Harrell played all 20 minutes of the first half and in addition to his scoring had three rebounds and two assists.
The Bobcats had 13 rebounds in the first half, led by senior forward Isiah Small who led all players with six rebounds.
The Islanders made 45.5% (10-22) of their field goals, 42.9% (3-7) of their threes and 66.7% (2-3) of their free throws in the opening period.
Senior guard Myles Smith (3-8, 1-3 three-pointers) and senior guard Nolan Bertain (3-4, 1-1 three-pointers) each had seven points for TAMU-CC in the first half. Following Smith and Bertain was senior forward Perry Francois with six (3-4).
Junior guard Simeon Fryer led the Islanders in rebounding with three while Smith and junior guard Cyrie Coates Jr. each had two.
Texas State picked up the tempo coming out of the break. Junior guard Caleb Asberry got off to a quick start in the second half, scoring a contested layup on the drive then a finger roll on the fastbreak to put Texas State up 31-25.
After Bertain was fouled on a three-point attempt and converted all three free throws for TAMU-CC, the Bobcats went on a 9-0 run capped off by an alley-oop dunk by Small assisted by Harrell to go up 40-28 just over six minutes into the half.
Francois would then go on a personal 7-0 run to close the Texas State lead to 40-35.
With about 1:30 on the clock, Francois left the court with an apparent leg injury. He was able to walk back to the bench and later returned to the game.
Both teams traded buckets for the remainder of the game. The Bobcats were only up 49-46 in the final minute of the game. With 20 seconds on the clock, Harrell hit his defender with a series of dribble moves before driving right and losing the defender with a step back before converting his signature free-throw line jumper to put the Islanders away 51-46.
Texas State continued to struggle from the line and from distance in the second half, finishing the game shooting 15.4% (2-13) from three and 58% (7-12) on free throws.
Johnson is “hopeful” that the team’s poor performance shooting threes and free throws is temporary.
“The only way to improve that is continue to improve guy’s confidence and guys tend to improve their confidence when they are in the gym and they see a few go in,” Johnson said. “We have to continue to carve out time in the gym and get them good shots and good looks.”
The Bobcats were fairly efficient overall from the field, shooting 45.7% for the game.
Harrell played the entire game for Texas State and ended the game with 13 points (6-13, 1-4 three-pointers), five rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Johnson feels that this team will go as far as Harrell can take them and needs him to be able to play high minutes when the team needs him to.
“I thought Mason played an unbelievable game playing 40 minutes,” Johnson said. “I had no plans on taking him out, if we went to two overtimes he still wouldn’t have come out. That’s how important he is to us.”
In his first start of the season, Asberry finished with a team-high 15 points (7-12), 11 coming in the second half, and three rebounds. Johnson was happy to see Asberry play well tonight after not being 100% healthy for much of the season. Johnson praised Asberry for his performance, particularly his abilities on the fastbreak.
“Caleb is a talent, he’s a good player,” Johnson said. “Even when he’s not making shots there are ways he can impact the game. Today I thought he did a pretty good job of getting his hands on some balls and I thought he got downhill.”
Small continued his strong rebounding so far this season, finishing with a game-high 11 rebounds (three offensive) to go along with a block and a steal.
The Islanders finished the game shooting 39.5% (17-43) from the field, 35.7% (5-14) from distance and 70% (7-10) from the free-throw line.
For TAMU-CC, Bertain had a game-high 19 points (6-9, 3-4 three-pointers). Following Bertain in the scoring column for the Islanders was Francois with 13 (6-7). Rebounding was evenly distributed for TAMU-CC as four players ended the game with four or more rebounds, led by Coates and Fryer with five each.
Neither team was able to dominate the boards as Texas State only held a slight 29-27 rebounding advantage.
As the year comes to a close, Johnson is looking for “growth in all areas” from his team and for them to enjoy playing the game of basketball.
“I thought last game it almost looked like a chore,” Johnson said. “[Tonight] I really saw some young men who were excited about playing the game. It’s called a game for a reason. Having fun [is] expected, it’s ok to be happy.”
To close out 2020, Texas State will play in the Denver Classic. First up for the Bobcats will be Denver University on Dec. 19, followed by Northern Arizona University on Dec. 21.