By Reily Chestnut
A new arena and atmosphere was unleashed on Nov. 9, 2018. The air was electric with a touch of excitement and a dash of fresh optimism. All these ingredients were blended together with Head Coach Danny Kaspar’s signature dish: tough defense. The result was a 67-57 Texas State victory over the Air Force Academy Falcons to christen Strahan Arena and it’s newly functioning University Events Center.
The action tonight welcomed us back to the familiar brand of Bobcat basketball that has reigned supreme under Kaspar as he begins his sixth season at the helm in San Marcos.
“I thought our team played very hard tonight… played very good defense,” Kaspar stated in the post game press conference. “Including the young man [sitting] to my right.”
That young man was Pflugerville resident and newly debuted Bobcat guard Jaylen Shead. Entering tonight’s game Shead, playing in his first college game since 2016 after transferring to the program before last season, wasn’t being given much press. After his performance against the Falcons, it seems we won’t be done talking about Shead for quite some time. In his first game as a Bobcat, Shead drove to the basket with an abundant fearlessness that helped the junior score 11 points and dish out four assists. For Shead, he was more focused on quarterbacking the offense.
“Every team I’ve been on, I’ve always been a guy that could get to the basket,” Shead said. “Sometimes, Nijal [Pearson] yells at me in practice because I don’t look for my shot. My unselfishness… I just try to get everybody where I think they can score.”
His defensive prowess was much appreciated by Kaspar as the junior stole the ball three times.
I’ve got one thing to say to that… Hallelujah! Shead’s skill set just shows how focused Kaspar was this last off season in recruiting guards like Shead, freshman Mason Harrell to team up alongside junior Marlin Davis to give the Bobcats guards who are solid dribble penetrators. With Kaspar’s new arsenal of smart dribbling guards the Bobcats were able to witness one memorable performance from preseason All-SBC second team Nijal Pearson.
Pearson ended up scoring 21 points off 9-15 shooting with a 3-5 mark from downtown. That last bucket helped Pearson become the 22nd Bobcat ever to reach quadruple-digit scoring for a career, but he wasn’t alone tonight. Senior Alex Peacock netted 14 points with two treys to help Pearson and Shead. In all, the Bobcats shot 47 percent from outside and overall.
Most importantly, they showed what it means to play your opponent tough enough to keep forcing turnovers like the 17 they got out of the Falcons. Fitting that this ground assault comes against an Air Force squad who got the drop on Texas State last season. Even more coincidental that the win opens up Veterans/Heroes Weekend for Texas State Athletics.
Coincidental magic or not… for the basketball team it’s just another win in the record books.
Featured image by Tino Manor.