By Adam Keehn
After a tough loss on the road last Saturday to Appalachian State, the Texas State Bobcats responded with a 74-66 win over Little Rock on Thursday Feb. 13.
Little Rock came to San Marcos with the best record in the Sun Belt at 12-2, presenting arguably the toughest matchup for the Bobcats yet. Texas State was ready and met the challenge from the jump, starting the game with a 9-0 scoring run. Since getting out to that early lead, the Bobcats never gave it up, remaining ahead for the entirety of the game. This win for Texas State stopped a Little Rock seven game win streak.
The story in this one was the outstanding play from big man Alonzo Sule, who ended the game with 26 points and 10 rebounds. You could feel Sule’s energy from up in the bleachers and he had the Bobcat crowd going crazy after a couple of ferocious dunks. Assistant coach Jim Shaw talked before the game about Sule’s energy and what it does for this team.
“Alonzo is the energizer bunny of the team,” said Shaw. “When he’s getting offensive rebounds and scoring down low, it opens up the entire perimeter.”
Not only did Sule stuff the stat sheet, he also made a few highlight reel dunks, one of which was a put back dunk after a Mason Harrell missed three pointer. This play stood out so much that it received national attention and was number 8 on the ESPN top 10 countdown. After the game, head coach Danny Kaspar talked about Sule’s put back jam.
“He came from out of nowhere and I mean that was a fantastic basketball play,” said Kaspar. “It was great to see Sule’s dunk, that was special.”
A big thing the Bobcats are looking to improve on as the season progresses is rebounding and they did a great job of that in this one. Texas State out-rebounded Little Rock 38-28. Even more impressive, 17 of those 38 rebounds were offensive, creating a lot of second chance points for the maroon and gold. Alonzo Sule, who had double digit rebounds in this game, talked before the game about the team’s mentality when it comes to crashing the glass.
“Man we just got to go get it,” said Sule. “All of us, not just the bigs but guards too, we all just got to have that mentality where we just have to hustle and go get it.”
Although Texas State kept their foot on the gas the whole game, they did have some problems with Little Rock’s 1-3-1 press. They were getting trapped in the corners and turning the ball over, which led to some easy Little Rock buckets. Post game, coach Kaspar talked about Little Rock’s press and what they could have done better against it.
“Get it out of there before they trap you and we didn’t do a very good job of that,” said Kaspar. “I don’t know if anybody is as good a pressing team as that team we just saw.”
Little Rock kept fighting and cut it to single digits late, but a few timely baskets from Sule, Shelby Adams and Nijal Pearson was enough to hold off the Trojans. Although Pearson did not shoot the ball particularly well at 36% from the field, he finished the game with 15 points and further cemented himself in Bobcats history, scoring his 2,000 career point.
Texas State looks ahead to Saturday’s match up against Arkansas State. The Bobcats won 70-67 in the first meeting against the Red Wolves on Jan. 4 in Jonesboro. Nijal Pearson led the way for Texas State with 23 points and 5 rebounds. The Red Wolves spread the scoring around in this loss, having four players finish in double figures, but it wasn’t enough to take down the maroon and gold.
Looking to keep building off the momentum of a huge win against a great Little Rock team, the Bobcats will host Arkansas State this Saturday, Feb. 15 at 2 p.m. in Strahan Arena. Hopefully Bobcat nation can match the energy in Thursday’s game and inspire another Bobcat win.
Featured image by Nathan Rarangol.