Texas State enters its final two games of the season against South Alabama on the road Thursday night and Troy Saturday afternoon with postseason hopes on the line.
The Bobcats are looking to end a three-game losing streak and avoid dropping seven straight on the road.
The Bobcats are now in a “must win” situation to have a chance to make the Sun Belt Conference tournament due to the team losing its last two home games to Western Kentucky and Georgia State.
Texas State is 1‒11 on the road this year with its last win coming in January to Louisiana-Monroe.
Troy currently sits ahead of the Bobcats in the eighth and final spot of the tournament while South Alabama ranks last.
All three teams have a chance to make the tournament with Troy being the only team in control of its own destiny.
“If we win two, we go,” said Coach Danny Kaspar. “We’re faced with a must-win situation here.”
Troy must beat UT-Arlington in order to make the tournament and eliminate Texas State from contention. Texas State needs the Mavericks to beat the Trojans then win its game against South Alabama for the Bobcats to have a chance at making the post-season. The final contest between Texas State and Troy would be a one-game playoff for the last spot in the Sun Belt tournament if the Bobcats can beat South Alabama and Troy loses to UT-Arlington.
Texas State and Troy’s conference records would be tied at that point, but the Bobcats would have the tiebreaking advantage of beating the Trojans twice in the season.
“It’s my senior year,” said Phil Hawkins, senior guard. “I’m trying to go to New Orleans. Who says I’m going to play basketball after this? I’m trying to enjoy it while I have the chance right now.”
The Bobcats were in a similar scenario after losing to Utah State last season. The team needed to beat San Jose State in the last game of the season to make the Western Athletic Conference tournament and it did.
Hawkins said— as evidence of last season’s run in the WAC tournament—all the team needs to do is get into the tournament and anything can happen. The upperclassmen have looked to remind the newer players that this is not an unusual scenario for the Bobcats.
“They’re young so they haven’t been in this situation,“ Hawkins said. “Some of them haven’t even had a losing season. We were here last year, so we just need to keep working hard.”
Texas State beat both Troy and South Alabama in their first matchups, 67‒66 over South Alabama in overtime and 73‒65 over Troy. The Bobcats’ leading scorer Joel Wright, senior forward, averaged 18.5 points on 45.2 percent shooting in the two meetings.
Emani Gant, sophomore forward, scored a season-high 21 points versus Troy and combined with Wright to out-rebound the entire starting lineup for the Trojans by three.
Texas State has averaged 66.9 percent from the line over the past three games, and Kaspar believes the free throw shooting is why the team has lost close games this season.
“We have to shoot free throws better,” Kaspar said after Saturday’s loss to Georgia State. “I think in some of the games we’ve won or when we played some very good teams very close, we’re shooting more like 75 percent, 74 and 73. (Saturday) we shot 61.”
Hawkins said the final two games have everyone on the team putting in extra work before and after practice—to do their part to make conference contention a possibility.
“Our back's to the wall,” said Assistant Coach Rob Flaska. “We’re going to have to hit some homeruns here.”