By Marvin Parker Jr.
It was the first game at home in Strahan Coliseum for the Bobcats in almost twenty days. It was also a career night for senior guard Ethan Montalvo. It was a game that, if you were there, you will never forget.
Out the gate Texas State went on a 12-2 run against Little Rock. The Trojans seemed flustered and out of sync. Turning the ball over, not getting shots to go down, collecting fouls, you name the keys to success and Little Rock was not doing it. On the contrary, four players were on the scoreboard within the first twelve minutes for Texas State. The game plan was working.
The crowd might not have expected the Bobcats to take such an early jump on the Sun Belt Conference leading 5-1 Trojans, but Coach Kaspar was the farthest from surprised.
“We were ready to play a little bit better than they [Little Rock] were. This is my 25th year as a head coach, 13 as an assistant. The tension in the locker room; I knew our guys were ready to play,” Kaspar said.
Pre-season Sun Belt Conference All-American, Emani Gant was the only thing missing from this game. Gant collected a technical foul around eight minutes left in opening half. After the tech, Gant sat the rest of the half, and so did Kaspar’s jacket as he ditched it in frustration. Serving as replacement, junior forward Maljhum McCrea provided the tangibles and intangibles. The muscle and grit was all #3 in the first half. McCrea had 6 points, 4 boards and a lot of heart going into the half. Montalvo was shooting into the Pacific Ocean with 15 points after the first 20 minutes at a solid 50 percent through the first half.
To start the second half, the 10-point 38-28 Texas State lead shrunk quickly as the Trojans came out trying to remind everyone why they are 15-2 overall. Opening with a 8-2 run by Little Rock, Texas State called a timeout with 15:48 left in the game and it seemed from here on out it was about playing chess, not checkers. After the game, Kavin Gilder-Tilbury mentioned how the coaches said the game would come down free throws and rebounds. Those coaches told no lie. The stat sheet will do no justice as the Bobcats shot 20-28 from the charity strike, but they missed key free throws that hurt more than a stat line could ever show.
In a first half that was mainly lead by Texas State all throughout, the second half was definitely a game of tug-of-war in terms of switching off the lead.
All tied up at 59 with 10.7 seconds left, the Bobcats had possession.
Bobby Conley inbounds the ball to Ojai Black. Back to Conley. Conley looks for shot, drives to the paint after rolling off of a Tilbury screen to then pass to Cameron Naylor down low who gets the best shot he can up, but he fails in the effort. OT.
The momentum switched to the Trojans simply because the Bobcats seemed to be running out of firepower. And foul trouble. Gant came back into the game midway through the second half to only foul out shortly after. Gant finished the night with 2 points on 1-2 shooting and five fouls in 10 total minutes.
Coach Kaspar said he places no blame on anyone as the effort was certainly there, but if anyone can feel bad, it’s Gant.
“If Emani feels bad then that’s okay. He’s a senior, he knows he can’t do that.” Kaspar said.
Overtime was simple. Little Rock made four of their last four field goals and Texas State made five of their last six. But one team was shooting three’s, and that same team had the ball last, and that same team was not Texas State.
A buzzer beater that resembled Maryland’s Melo Trimble from the top of the key was the dagger to the Bobcat’s heart as the Trojans enjoyed a dog pile in Strahan Coliseum.
It was truly a career-night for Ethan Montalvo with 28 points, 7-14 from the field and 5-10 from three-point land. Montalvo did what he could to be able to celebrate this memorable night.
Trojans improve to 16-2 overall (6-1 SBC) while the Bobcats fall to 8-7 on the season (2-4 SBC). Next up for Texas State is Arkansas State at home, Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Strahan Coliseum.
Featured image by Madison Tyson.