By Adam Keehn
The New Year is upon us as students and faculty enjoy a long break from classes. As the majority of the student body relaxes and resets, our men’s basketball team grinds through the holidays.
The Bobcats are now 15 games into the season with 16 games remaining, sitting at an overall record of 8-7. Although this team did not start the season the way they might have wanted to, the early losses are understandable due to roster turnover from last years’ team, who were 12-3 through their first 15 games.
The last four games the Bobcats have played this season have been Sun Belt Conference games. Texas State currently sits at 1-3 in conference with a win on Saturday afternoon on the road against Arkansas State. Before this win, the Bobcats lost the first three conference games of the season with losses to Georgia Southern, Georgia State and Little Rock. All three of these conference losses have come on the road, which is important to note as Texas State will get another shot at these teams at home later in the season.
This is my second season following the Texas State men’s basketball team on my blog, Bobcat Ball. Last season, I wrote an article called, “There’s No Place Like Home,” which told the story of how the Bobcats have seen success at home and struggled on the road. This season optimizes that idea once again. Texas State is 6-1 when staying in San Marcos at Strahan Arena, and 2-6 when facing opponents on the road. With that said, the Bobcats will enjoy a comfortable home-court advantage in 10 of the next 14 games.
Some of the road losses are justifiable, though, because in the front half of the season Texas State has faced some big time opponents including Baylor and Houston, both on the road. The team traveled to Waco early in the season on Nov. 15 and lost to the ranked Bears by only 9 points. Senior star Nijal Pearson had 20 points and 6 rebounds in the game, but it wasn’t enough to take down Baylor as they had five players all in double figures scoring that game.
A couple games later, Texas State traveled to Houston on Dec. 4 to play the Cougars and lost that game by only 8 points. Pearson had 17 and guard Mason Harrell added 11, but it still wasn’t enough. Sophomore guard and Kansas Jayhawk transfer Quentin Grimes had 21 points for Houston. I had the assignment of guarding Grimes multiple times when I was in high school playing for The Woodlands High when Grimes was at College Park. He gave my team all sorts of problems so I know a little about what it is like to see him get going.
Although the Bobcats are not off to an ideal start, better things are yet to come in 2020 and this first conference win against Arkansas State will hopefully build momentum. But 2019 and the first half of the season had some bright spots. First, this team is putting the ball in the basket. Twice so far this season Texas State has scored over 100 points, once in their season opener, and another time playing Bethany College, where the Bobcats scored 117 points. Although the team last year was great, they didn’t break 100 points the entire season.
Next, the Bobcats have one of the best players in the conference in Beaumont native, Nijal Pearson. This season, Pearson has set records for games played and three pointers made as a Bobcat and he currently sits third all time in scoring in Texas State history and 15th all time scoring in Sun Belt Conference history. This season, Pearson is averaging 18.4 points per game, shooting 43% from the field and 38% from the three point line. These numbers are up from his previous years as a Bobcat.
Finally, the second half of the season schedule, like I mentioned above, is very favorable to the maroon and gold. They have 10 home games left and only 6 road games. This gives Texas State a good chance to get on a winning streak and get rolling in front of the home fans. It is also important that these home conference games are picking up when students are arriving back on campus for the spring semester so the turnout and support should be greater than before.
With the home fans behind the Bobcats, a favorable second half schedule, and Pearson doing his thing, Texas State men’s basketball has the tools necessary to get back on track and finish the season the right way. Getting their first conference win against Arkansas State on Saturday was just the beginning.
The Bobcats play their first conference home game against Troy on Monday, Jan. 6 at 7 p.m at Strahan Arena to begin a three game home stand. Go show your support!
Featured image by Nathan Rarangol.