Bobcats get back to defense, shut down South Alabama

Photo by Gerald Castillo

Women's College Basketball

Toshua Leavitt took Saturday’s loss to Georgia Southern pretty hard.

Despite scoring a career-high 22 points, the sophomore guard only remembers the open go-ahead 3-pointer she missed with two seconds remaining. Thursday night, the Missouri native poured in 17 points and five 3-pointers in a bounce-back effort as the Bobcats topped South Alabama, 55-39.

“The whole next day I was thinking about (the miss), like if I would’ve just took another dribble or something, but I had to move on,” Leavitt said. “It’s the next game and it’s over with.”

Head coach Zenarae Antoine admitted to being nervous before Thursday's contest, but was relieved to see her team’s defensive prowess return. After allowing Georgia Southern to shoot over 69 percent from the floor in the second half of Saturday’s game, the Bobcats held the Jaguars to just 27.5 percent shooting and held Chyna Ellis and Colby Davis to a combined 3-of-21.

Texas State forced 18 turnovers led by senior Erin Peoples’ five steals.

“The nervousness for me is just understanding things can change in a game, my team understanding that it can happen that fast and how we respon," Antoine said. "I didn’t want us to sit back and I think that we sat back at Georgia Southern some.

“It’s okay to play with a sense of poise, but there also needs to be a sense of urgency at the same time.”

Up just seven at the half, Texas State saw its lead cut to four following Ellis’ layup three minutes into the third period. Leavitt’s 3-pointer put her team back up 29-22 and minutes later, junior Kaitlin Walla pushed the lead to double-digits.

South Alabama again knocked the lead back down to single digits before Leavitt’s 3-pointer with 1:22 left in the period extended it back to 39-27. The Bobcats never led by less than double-digits for the rest of the game as South Alabama shot 18.2 percent during the final period.

Currently the leading field percentage defense in the Sun Belt, it's been a long journey for Antoine’s team who finished last season as the worst defense in the league.

“The second the season was over last year, boom it was all about defense,” Antoine said. “From that time on, from the end of March all the way until now, just sticking with our defensive game plan.”

What’s pushed this extra focus on defense this season? Ironically, it's Texas State’s love of transition offense.

Players know that the more steals they generate (fourth in the Sun Belt), the more Antoine lets them freelance in transition. The Bobcats are also third in assist-to-turnover ratio.

“I feel like we all like defense this year,” Leavitt said. “We know we have to get stops, we have to get rebounds to go in transition and our team loves transition offense. We really work hard now rather than last year.”

Leavitt’s 63 3-pointers made this season is tied with Diamond Ford for the fourth-best mark in a season at Texas State. She's only three away from passing Meghan Braeuer for second.

“I’ve always been a shooter and I love shooting 3’s,” Leavitt said. “My teammates just find me and they all believe in me. They all want me to shoot it every time I get it. Every time I get it they all yell at me to shoot it so I just think I’m getting more comfortable.

Antoine added that it’s more than just Leavitt loving to shoot 3’s. The sophomore is constantly working on her form before and after practice.

“Toshua gets in extra, she gets in when people aren’t watching,” Antoine said. “We don’t have to ask her, she’s asking us, she watches additional film. Yes, it comes naturally for her because she was a great shooter in high school, but she works really hard at her craft.”

Texas State returns for its final home game of the season Saturday against Troy at 1 p.m.

San Marcos Daily Record

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