The Texas State men’s basketball team will travel more than 2,000 miles to take on the University of Idaho and Seattle University in the final two games of their two-week road stint.
In their most recent game, Idaho (3-4, 7-10) shot a season best 59.5 percent from the floor in a 77-64 victory over UT-Arlington.
The Vandals’ senior center Kyle Barone, who has a WAC-leading eight double-doubles this season, scored 14 points and collected a career-high 18 rebounds in the win. Barone currently leads the WAC in rebounds with nine per game, and is the only player averaging a double-double in conference play.
Barone’s teammate, sophomore guard Connor Hill, put on a shooting clinic and scored a game-high 19 points. Hill shot 7-9 from the field and 4-6 from beyond the arc. Hill has made 45 threes this season and is leading the WAC, shooting 46.9 percent overall from downtown.
“We have to be up and pressuring the ball when our man is in a scoring position,” said junior forward Reid Koenen. “Keep them thinking and force them to make quick decisions. Especially with Connor leading in 3-point percentage, you have to be there on the catch, have a hand up and make him put the ball on the floor.”
Idaho controlled every facet of the game against UT-Arlington. The Mavericks were out rebounded by a margin of 12, which allowed the Vandals to convert 42.1 percent of their 3-point shots. Idaho displayed mental focus by shooting 86.4 percent from the foul line on the road.
Idaho is ranked No. 1 in free throw and field goal percentage. The Vandals have attempted 127 shots from the foul line and have converted 77.2 percent while shooting 49.4 percent from the field.
The Bobcats will look to maintain an ever-changing style of defense and make an effort to always have a body or hand in the shooter’s face.
“We just have to continue our aggressive play on defense,” said junior forward Corey Stern. “And switch it up like we’ve been doing, from our zones to man. We have to keep them off-guard. Aggressive play will be the key.”
Barone will not be the only rebounding challenge for the Bobcats during this road trip to the northwest. Seattle University is ranked No. 1 as a collective unit and averages 13.7 offensive rebounds in conference play.
“There’s not a great technique for post defense or for defensive rebounding,” said Coach Doug Davalos. “It’s about fighting. We show them different ways of doing it, but it’s about being a man.”
Keeping Seattle off the glass will only be half the battle for the Bobcats. The Redhawks have tallied 147 steals over the course of 17 games. Davalos, for the first time this season, used three guards in his starting lineup. This trend will most likely continue, giving Texas State more ball handlers on the court.
Seattle’s top six scorers are all within four points of each other. From their leading scorer Clarence Trent (11.4), to sixth man Sterling Carter (7.3), the Redhawks’ core rotation has scored a total of 853 points.
“Both teams are well balanced,” Davalos said. “You have to play defense. It’s Division 1 basketball. Most teams are well balanced. It’s got to be a team mentality. It’s got to be that everybody knows they’re going to be held accountable. Sometimes in a game plan you can help ‘off’ a guy. In these two games, you can’t. You have to really be solid off the ball and on the ball, and you can’t take a break.”
Idaho and Seattle played each other in their first WAC conference game. Idaho beat the Redhawks 71-64 behind Barone’s 25 point, 11 rebound effort. It was a tight game with 10 ties and eight lead changes, until the end when Seattle was forced to foul the Vandals.
The Bobcats were not worried about the long trip and three straight road games. In fact, Davalos prefers life on the road.
“When you’re at home, there are so many distractions,” Davalos said. “It’s not making excuses, but you’ve got parents, girlfriends and you’ve got buddies (at home). When you’re on the road, it’s (just) us.”