Texas State showed that they deserved to be at the top of the Sun Belt Conference tournament rankings after a 79-67 victory over the South Alabama Jaguars.
The Bobcats came into the SBC tournament as a four seed after losing back to back games to South Alabama and the University of Texas at Arlington, head coach of the Bobcats Danny Kaspar said.
“We were happy to see South Alabama win that game (against Louisiana), only because I felt like it was even more motivating for our players to play South Alabama after they beat us pretty good at their place,” Kasper said.
The Bobcats showed the motivation early, forcing 12 turnovers in the first half and forcing the Jaguars into poor shots. In the first eight minutes, Alex Peacock made his presence felt shooting well from the field and finishing the first half with three rebounds, even after getting into foul trouble early, head coach of the Jaguars Richie Riley said the Bobcats handled their business.
“They came in with a chip on their shoulder and handled their business,” Riley said. “They really whipped us from a physical standpoint on both sides.”
The Bobcats were able to get out to a 34-28 point lead at halftime without shooting many free throws. The Bobcats game plan early on was to pound the paint and work their way outside, evident in the difference between the shooting percentage from the floor and their three-point percentage.
In the second half, the Bobcats struggled to continue to play with the same intensity, allowing the Jaguars to cut the lead to under single digits a handful of times. The real change of momentum came when freshman guard Mason Harrell was able to force South Alabama into their third offensive charge.
In the second half, the Bobcats were able to force South Alabama into more fouls, shooting 31 free throws in the second half.
The story around the Bobcats all season was the lack of consistent free throw shooting, but when the game was on the line, the Bobcats were able to hit them when it mattered most. This was especially important for Pearson, which after a season where he was the Bobcats most consistent scorer, only shot 2-8 from the field, Pearson said.
“We won first of all, and second of all, I felt like I defended very well tonight,” Pearson said. “I made my impact on the defensive end. And we got the win, I don’t care if I went 0-15.”
The Bobcats other All-SBC stars, Tre Nottingham, was able to contribute by shooting 3-6 from behind the arc and a perfect 6-6 from the line to give the senior a team-high 19 points.
The Bobcats’ other starters, Eric Terry and Jalen Shead, both contributed as well with Terry adding nine points and Shead leading the team with seven assists.
While the Bobcats were able to hold South Alabama’s star Josh Ajayi to 2-7 shooting and seven points, junior Herb McGee was able to hurt the Bobcats with 10-11 from the free throw line and 3-3 from behind the arc to give him 25 points, Kaspar said.
“This game is mental,” Kaspar said. “It really was a matter of ‘You got to win or you die,’ you’re done.”
While Kasper would not go into depth on the Bobcats’ plans for the team that they split the season series with, the Jaguars coach spoke highly of Texas State.
“I think they have an excellent chance to win this thing. It’s going to be an excellent finish,” Reily said.
The Bobcats continue in the Sun Belt tournament with a matchup against first seed Georgia State at 3 p.m. tomorrow. The teams split the season series one game apiece with neither team winning at home.