The transition to the WAC hasn’t sailed as smoothly as Texas State and the University of Texas-San Antonio would have hoped.
Fans can expect a high level of intensity and passion on the court in the 55th meeting between the two programs despite the combined WAC record of 4-22.
The Feb. 16 game at Strahan Coliseum will mark the final conference game between I-35 rivals Texas State and UTSA. UTSA leads the all-time Interstate 35 series, 31-23. Next year, the Bobcats will move to the Sun Belt Conference and the Roadrunners will enter Conference USA. The transition to different leagues could potentially end scheduled games between the Bobcats and Roadrunners.
“The game has a lot of history between our two institutions,” said Coach Doug Davalos. “If you look at every great rivalry, there’s some kind of proximity. Not only is it a proximity rivalry, it’s been a conference rivalry. We’re both playing for the same things within our conference. That’s why it will be sad if we don’t continue the rivalry when we’re not in the same conference next year.”
Texas State won the previous meeting 81-78 in overtime. Five Bobcats scored in double figures, including career highs from junior forwards Reid Koenen, who went for 23 points, and Corey Stern, posting 18 points and 13 rebounds.
UTSA’s senior guard combined for 58 of the 78 total Roadrunner points. Michael Hale III filled the stat sheet with 31 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while his counterpart Kannon Burrage scored 27 points and pulled down five boards.
Neither team saw its lead go over double digits. The grind-it-out game consisted of eight lead changes and was tied five times throughout the game. However, during overtime the Bobcats caught fire and ended with a 9-2 run and the team’s first WAC victory. This marked the first overtime game for Texas State since Feb. 19, 2011.
Offensive surges and scoring explosions will come as no surprise to either team. In conference play, Texas State and UTSA have allowed a combined total of 2,002 points to be scored against them, ranking them last and next to last in conference play.
The Bobcats are ranked ninth in field goal percent defense (.485) and 3-point percent defense (.375). The Roadrunners come in last allowing .508 from the floor and .390 from beyond the arc.
“No matter how our teams (Texas State and UTSA) are doing, you’re going to see two teams going hard at each other,” Davalos said. “I have yet to see a game where both teams came out flat in the rivalry game.”
The I-35 game will showcase three of the top four scorers in the WAC. Wright is leading the conference with 19.2 points, while Burrage comes in at second averaging 17.5.
“Burrage really likes to take a couple of dribbles and pull-up from the free-throw line,” said sophomore guard Wesley Davis. “We just need to work on getting under the screen fast and getting up on him before he can reach the paint and before he can get his shot off.”
Hale is currently ranked fourth in WAC scoring with 15.5 points per game. However, since the past Texas State game, he has averaged 20.5 points. Hale, along with Wright, is the only other player to have recorded two 30-point games in conference play.
The X-factor in the game will be forward Jeromie Hill, who didn’t compete against Texas State earlier in the year. Hill is UTSA’s third leading scorer with 12.5 points per game and is the Roadrunners’ most productive rebounder. Hill, despite missing six games, has accumulated 113 total boards, four more rebounds than second leading rebounder Burrage, who has yet to miss a conference game. Hill is averaging 6.3 rebounds this year.
Hill went down because of injury during the UT-Arlington game, just nine days before the first meeting with the Bobcats. Prior to the injury, Hill was averaging 16.83 points over the past six games. In three games Hill has averaged 8.6 points since his return.
In Texas State and UTSA’s past fourteen combined losses, the Bobcats have out-shot their opponent in percentages only three times.
“Nothing’s going to be the same as game time situations,” Davalos said after a free-throw shooting drill. “But I do know this: That (free-throw) line is the same in any gym in America.”
Over the past five seasons, Texas State has won seven of the 11 meetings with UTSA in the I-35 rivalry game. Six of the games have been decided by 6 points or fewer.
“This rivalry means a lot,” Koenen said. “Not only to me, but to the program, our school, and all the students here … We are representing Texas State. It’s a big game, with close proximity between the schools. It’s definitely a big game.”