The Bobcats fall just short of pulling the upset over the Houston Cougars Friday night 76-70.
Texas State was led by sophomore forward Emani Gant with 19 points and ,the all familiar, junior forward Joel “Air Jamaica” Wright with 18 points and 8 rebounds.
Throughout the game the Bobcats struggled to find offense outside of their top two scorers. The rest of the team combined to shoot only 10-of-28 from the field. Wright’s most telling statistic was the big zero in the assist column. Something head coach Danny Kaspar is undoubtedly upset with.
Houston’s duo of TaShawn Thomas and Danuel House were the key players for the Cougars as both combined for 46 points and 15 rebounds.
Texas State’s first form of competition was an exhibition Monday against Sul Ross State in Strahan Coliseum. However, Friday was their first official game of the season and first under Kaspar. The Bobcats were looking to show their progression under Kaspar’s schematic mentality.
Coach Kaspar is a much more defensive-focused mind than previous head coach Doug Davalos. Over the past six seasons he’s prided his (Stephen F. Austin) teams on being top ten defenses in the nation. Even leading the nation in points allowed with 51.2 points per game last season with the Lumberjacks.
The game started close. Texas State’s defense was stymie and the offense was structured. Kaspar looked to establish a slow-it-down offense early with frequent post-ups to Emani Gant who was able to work the ball around for open shots or put-back opportunities. The Bobcats had a significant advantage on the offensive glass early as they out-hustled Houston after every miss.
Despite the early signs of improvement on the defensive end there were also many holes. Because Kaspar is dealing with mostly players he did not recruit, his biggest challenge right now is getting them to buy into a system they didn’t necessarily commit to play. The players showed that they have bought into Kaspar’s philosophy and looked like a more cohesive unit doing so. Good things don’t happen overnight however and Texas State still has some glaring weaknesses that were accentuated Friday night.
Transition defense was the most glaring. The Bobcats failed to get back after missed field goal attempts and the energetic Danuel House made them pay on multiple possessions. Kaspar was visibly upset with the lack of hustle on that end. The bright side is that’s something that can be easily fixed. Mental lapses will occur naturally but it’s up to the players to keep the game in front of them. Tonight wasn’t the night that would happen.
The effort in the half-court defense was there in the first half. Good rotations by the perimeter defenders early on kept the game close but it was just Houston’s night on offense. In the second half the offense got sloppy as Houston keyed in on Wright and Gant. Texas State shot 51.7% in the first half and only 37.9% in the second after the Cougars forced the Bobcat offense to find other scorers outside of their top two.
Texas State ended up winning the second chance point battle (16-10) and the offensive rebound battle (11-7) but it was smart shot selection by Houston and sloppy offense by Texas State that proved to be the deciding factors.
Overall it was a game that had much to decipher and in spite of the loss there is much to be excited about this season. The players are definitely buying into the defensive tactics and will continue to get better as they work out the kinks.
Texas State’s next game will be at Strahan Coliseum against Kaspar’s former team, Stephen F. Austin, Tuesday November 12, at 7:00p.m.