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Bobcats looking to make fresh start in tournament

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Coach Danny Kaspar and the Texas State men’s basketball team are headed to the Sun Belt Conference tournament with the mentality of a “clean slate.”

The Bobcats approach the season in three stages—non-conference, Sun Belt and playoffs.

“I do believe our players are going in this with renewed hope,” Kaspar said. “This is our third season. We are happy to be in the postseason tournament. Our players are playing with a lot of intensity now, and the bottom line is that we just did not shoot the ball well our last two games against Appalachian State and Louisiana-Monroe.”

Texas State will face fifth-seeded UT-Arlington in the first round of the postseason tournament. The Mavericks have beaten Texas State twice this season by a total margin of 20 points.

The Bobcats were down by three points at halftime in their last home game against the Mavericks. However, the Mavericks opened the second half with a 11-2 run, and the Bobcats were never able to recover from the deficit.

Kaspar was disappointed that his defense gave up 70 points on its home court.

UT-Arlington’s fast break offense approach is threatening to Texas State. In particular, Lonnie McClanahan, Maverick’s senior guard, tallied 29 points total this season against the Bobcats.

Kaspar believes McClanahan is the fastest player in the conference and the Bobcats will rely on Wes Davis, senior guard and D.J. Brown, senior guard, to apply pressure to the Mavericks. Davis, Brown and Ethan Montalvo, junior guard, will be responsible for contesting any outside shots the Mavericks give up.

Kaspar has emphasized to the team that its defensive effort will play a huge role in the tournament.

The Bobcats are expecting the Mavericks to take quick shots, meaning they need to take care of the rebounding department.

The Mavericks are third in the conference in offensive rebounds. The Bobcats sit in last place in offensive rebounds.

Kaspar is certain rebounding will be vital if the Bobcats expect to pull off a win.

“That’s the line I’m giving my players,” Kaspar said, “If (they) can shoot in the mid-forties, outrebound your opponent and defend the way like we have, we are going to win some games.”

The Bobcats shot 33.3 percent from the field in the last meeting against the Mavericks. Emani Gant, junior forward, provided 12 points for the Bobcats in the loss.

“The attitude I’m taking is just to give it 100 percent, give it our all,” Gant said. “I feel like we can beat anybody when we play our best game. My attitude coming in is complete focus and togetherness.”

UT-Arlington will attempt to defeat Texas State three consecutive times in one season. Gant, however, is skeptical of the Mavericks’ ability to achieve that feat.

“I don’t feel like they can beat us three times,” Gant said.  “I lost to them four times. I don’t want to take no more (losses) against them, so I’m focused on beating them.”

With a 13-16 overall record, Texas State needs to win the conference tournament to earn a berth in the NCAA Division I Tournament.

Otherwise, the team’s season will be over.

“Postseason is just a whole different animal,” Gant said. “You have to come 100 percent ready to play. One game and you are out, so if you make it, you keep going. If you don’t, then you are going home. So our attitude it that you have to come with it.”

Follow Sabrina Flores on Twitter @SabrinaFloresTX.