Heading into the season finale, the stakes were high for the Texas State Bobcats as they faced off with in-state rival the University of Texas at Arlington Mavericks.
Not only was this senior day and a rivalry game, but the Bobcats were battling for a first-round bye in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. Unfortunately, this was game fans and players would rather forget.
Despite leading the Mavericks 28-17 at halftime, the Bobcats struggled offensively in the second half as UTA’s late-game heroics survived the Texas State upset in a 44-41 victory.
UTA clinched a share of the Sun Belt regular season title with the victory while Texas State finished the regular season at a 14-16 with a 9-9 conference record.
Head coach Zenarae Antoine said this turned out to be a heartbreaking loss for many of the fans, players, and coaches who wanted to send off the seniors with a win in their last game at Strahan Coliseum.
“These games are really hard,” Antoine said. “Especially when you have an opportunity…the buzzer went off and that was it. At the end of the day I’m hurt for our seniors, this was hard to stomach. I also know that our season isn’t over.”
The first quarter was a defensive battle as both teams never gave each other clean shots at the basket. Despite allowing six points off turnovers, the Bobcats out-rebounded the Mavericks 11-7 to keep them in the game. After the end of the first quarter, Texas State led UT Arlington 11-9.
Entering the second quarter, both defenses refused to let up. Both teams traded points as no one would gain a large lead. But, with less than six minutes left in the period, the Bobcats found their groove.
The offense scored 12 points in the remaining quarter while the Texas State defense would shut down the UTA offense by allowing no points. The Bobcats took their largest lead of the game so far leading the Mavericks 28-17 at halftime which junior guard Brooke Holle said helped keep the Bobcats in the game.
“It was just our defense and we got some good stops,” Holle said. “It created our energy on offense…our defense was leading to different scores.”
Just like the rest of the first half, both defenses shut down the team’s other’s offense. In fact, both defenses allowed a combined two points till halfway through the third period.
Though the Bobcats failed to score during that time period, their defense forced 6 turnovers to keep Texas State ahead. The Bobcats finally scored their first points of the third after a 3-pointer by senior guard Toshua Levitt.
Despite only scoring three points in the third, the good defense kept the Texas State lead at 31-27.
However, the Mavericks began to chop into the Bobcat lead and eventually took a 39-36 advantage following a 12-2 run. Heading into the final minute of the game all tied at 40, UTA hit a late 3 pointer to give them the advantage.
Texas State cut into the lead by hitting one free throw to trail by two. With the final possession, Texas State turned the ball over. UTA hit their final free throw to seal the victory 44-41.
Levitt led the team in scoring with 16 points as junior forward Jazza Johns and freshman forward Da’Nasia Hood would contribute with eight and seven points respectively. Hood also had a team-high nine rebounds as well as Bailey Holley with eight.
Despite the home loss to UTA, not everything was bad for Texas State. Following the South Alabama loss to Appalachian State, the Bobcats clinched a first-round bye in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament and will play the winner of the Louisiana-South Alabama game.
“It is win or go home,” Levitt said, commenting on the Sun Belt Conference tournament. “Everyone has to give everything they have whether they are tired or not because it could possibly be our last game.”