Coming off a 15-18 overall and a 7-11 conference record from the 2017-2018 season, the Bobcats had a lot to prove this season. Head Coach Danny Kaspar stated that the previous record was one of the worst he’s had out his six seasons so far with Texas State. With a 24-10 overall and 12-6 conference record this season, Kaspar made enormous adjustments to add to his resume. The team looks to a bright future ahead of them despite the loss of senior players Tre’Larenz Nottingham, Alex Peacock and Isaiah Gurley.
Nov. 21, 2018
It all started on this day when the Bobcats defeated Cal Poly 54-42 at the start of the Portland Classic Tournament. This game gave birth to the infamous eight-game win streak which lasted from Nov. 21 all the way to Dec. 15 when they defeated UTRGV 77-68 to close off the fall 2018 semester. Little did Bobcat fans know that there was an imminent record breaking season ahead of them.
During the eight game stretch of wins, the Bobcats only allowed one team to score over 70 points, and the last game of regular season play, the team would put up 105 points in a win over Howard Payne in order to establish dominance before they headed into conference play. They knew it was only a matter of time before they got the chance to do something special but with the pre season poll projecting them to finish eighth, the Bobcats had to play with a chip on their shoulder every game.
The moment the Bobcats have been waiting for. Conference play. The maroon and gold would begin their record breaking season at home against the Georgia Southern Eagles. The Eagles have always played this Texas State team very closely as the margin of victory over the last four matchups have been decided by four or less points. In this tone-setting game for this team, all of San Marcos could see that they were destined for greatness when they play as one.
Nottingham poured in a commanding team high of 24 points, while other key players, like Peacock, who did what he’s best at by getting a double-double and forced leading scorer Nijal Pearson to resort to other ways to leave his mark on the game. Fourteen rebounds for the junior guard would be his new career high. This game would improve the Bobcats to 6-0 at home but with Georgia State as their next opponent, we really get to see what this team is made of.
Establish Dominance in a Race for First
Without anytime to breathe, the Bobcats had to turn around and face a Georgia State team coached by Ron Hunter, who has won three out of the last five Sun-Belt Championships and has been a dominant force in this conference for years. This game was physical from the beginning. Both teams were willfully trying to exploit the others weaknesses and Georgia State ended up being too strong for the Bobcats. The first half was a struggle as Texas State only shot 28 percent from the field as opposed to Georgia State, who shot 45 percent.
Everyone knows Texas State for their defense due to their defensive mastermind Head Coach Danny Kaspar. They held the Panthers to 29 points, their second lowest scoring performance in a half for them this season. The second half was very chippy and pushed the Bobcats to their limit. The loss of Pearson due to a grade two technical foul allowed the Panthers to take advantage and gain their biggest lead of the game at 13. With four minutes left the Bobcats would claw back into it, but it just wasn’t enough and they would lose their first game in conference play 73-69.
“It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up,” Vince Lombardi once said, and the Bobcats sure did. The Bobcats would retaliate by winning five games in a row, including winning a redemption game against Georgia State by 13 points on the road. Pearson came out ready to lead his team to a win against a foe they felt they could’ve beaten in their first battle of the year.
He scored 27 points the second time around and knew that this game would put the rest of the conference on high alert. Not only did this win mean a lot to this team, but also made the rest of the Sun Belt stare at one name on top– Texas State.
The winning streak gave this team the best start in school history since the late ’60s and would force the Bobcats to stare straight in the eyes of a 17 and 3 record. With one record down, the Bobcats figure, “Let’s keep this going at home.” After a tough loss to Georgia Southern plagued by travel and a hard fought battle against a top three team in the conference, the maroon and gold would finally get to play in front of their home crowd. The “Takers” mentality to just go after what you want and fight for it was something this team adopted throughout the season. People tend to gravitate towards something special, so what other way to get your crowd involved then to have a record breaking season and also give away t-shirts with that teams motto on it.
The game against UT Arlington was one that all of Texas State is bound to remember. Not only did the game go into double overtime, but the previous attendance record set at Strahan Arena was completely shattered by Bobcat Nation.
On Feb. 2, 2019, 6,581 people flooded the arena to watch a battle that would surely be worth it to watch. The Bobcats took a nine point lead with three minutes remaining in the half but the Mavericks would go on a 9-0 run as they try to spoil Texas State’s record setting party. This game was so close that during the second half, there were eight ties and 10 lead changes.
UT Arlington’s Brian Warren would not let his team fall too far behind as he made a spinning left-handed jump shot to tie the game, taking both teams to the first overtime. Peacock started the overtime period with a three pointer, followed by Pearson’s one-for-two free throw stint, giving the Bobcats a four point lead. However, Brian Warren again activated takeover mode and would go on a 4-0 run of his own. In the second overtime period, it was a battle of heart and will. UT Arlington jumped out to a five point lead, killing the moral of their opposition and with that, Pearson and his team would fall short at home. 84-77. This loss gave Texas state its first back-to-back losses of the season.
Well, isn’t this familiar? A loss to a good team and then what? The Bobcats would go on another four game winning streak, giving them season sweeps against three of their conference foes. During the streak, the Bobcats made history again by winning 20 games, only the second time in the Kaspar era. After all the history and records this season, the team was to be battle tested in the final stretch of games in conference play.
With senior night approaching, Nottingham and Peacock are two players that all of Bobcats fans and members will surely miss. Unfortunately, multiple players for this team had been diagnosed with flu-like symptoms. Kaspar only had nine players in at practice leading up to this game and he is quoted asking, “How do you practice with nine players?” Well, the Bobcats had faced adversity all season, so they did what they always do, and they went out and competed without starter Peacock and role player Quentin Scott.
Kaspar knew that in this marriage contract with the Bobcats it would in sickness and in health. It was a hard fought battle but Texas State would prevail 64-62 against Louisiana. It was the seniors’ last time playing in front of their home crowd.
Regular Season Ending Struggles
After starting 22-6, Texas State finished only 2-4 during the most important stretch of the season.
The Bobcats’ season turned worse for wear after a blowout loss to the South Alabama Jaguars on the road 77-63.
Momentum halted even further as the ‘Cats ended the regular season suffering back-to-back losses for just the second time all year following an 81-73 defeat to the UT Arlington Mavericks.
Luckily for Texas State, the Bobcats had time to shake off late season woes by entering the Sun Belt tournament as the three seed, which included a first round bye.
Sun Belt Conference Tournament
During their SBC tournament run, defense was not an issue for the ‘Cats.
The Bobcats avenged their blowout loss to South Alabama in the quarterfinal round. Texas State only allowed South Alabama’s leading scorer Josh Ajayi to seven points en route to a win over the Jaguars 79-67.
Although Texas State was on the wrong end of the outcome in the semifinal round against Georgia State, their defense was potent. The Bobcats held the Panthers to their lowest scoring game against a conference opponent all season.
Unfortunately, the lid wouldn’t come off the rim, and the ‘Cats shot 21 percent as a team. Texas State fell to Georgia State 59-46.
The spark guiding the Bobcats defensively couldn’t be found in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com tournament, and they lost against FIU 87-81.
Injuries plagued Texas State at the worst possible time as leading scorer Pearson was announced out just an hour before tip-off. To make matters worse, Peacock played a mere 16 minutes, his least amount of minutes played all season, due to a hamstring injury.
Nottingham capped his historic collegiate career by matching his career high with 27 points.
Glimpses of the future were displayed in Texas State’s final game of their historic season as freshman Shelby Adams contributed one of his best games in maroon and gold. Adams posted a season-high 12 points, nine rebounds and two steals on his career defining night.
Sure, the Bobcats finished 24-10, their best record since 1998, but there is more to come following this memorable season. Out of the 15-man roster, only two players will be departing the Bobcats. Granted, the two seniors were in fact two key leaders: Nottingham and Peacock.
Nijal Pearson will enter his final year in a Bobcat uniform attempting to finish his career at Texas State as the programs leader in career starts, most minutes played and most three-pointers made.
Drew Tennial, a shooting guard from Memorial High School in Edmond, Oklahoma, will become a member of the Bobcats next season after announcing his commitment to Texas State on Oct. 15, 2018.
Coach Danny Kaspar has built a solid foundation for the Texas State basketball program. Next season coach Kaspar will look to create an even larger empire, leading the Bobcats for the seventh year with one goal in mind: a conference championship.
Featured photo by Texas State Athletics.