Bobcats slug out marquee win over Arkansas State

Photo by Gerald Castillo

Men's College Basketball

When Texas State needs a basket, senior forward Kavin Gilder-Tilbury wants the ball in his hands.

The Houston native was at the free throw line with a chance to put the game away with 10 seconds left after missing his first attempt. Gilder-Tilbury made the second and preserved Texas State’s 62-58 win over Arkansas State (18-8, 9-4 in the Sun Belt) Monday night as Arkansas State’s desperation 3-pointer clanked off the rim.

Just over a minute before that, Texas State (15-9, 8-4 in the Sun Belt) came out of a timeout with four seconds left on the shot clock. His team up just two, Gilder-Tilbury received the inbounds pass near the top of the key and banked it in over Arkansas State’s Devin Carter to put his team up five – a callback to three days prior when he made a similar contested shot in a similar situation against Little Rock.

“(Gilder-Tilbury has) been that way for the past two years to the point where I got to tell him sometimes, you’ve got to pass it too,” head coach Danny Kaspar jokingly said about his senior’s desire for the ball. “He does want to take the last shot and we’re fine with that. He’d rather have it in his hands more than anybody else.”

After the game, Gilder-Tilbury admitted he does enjoy those moments.

“I’m just shooting it with no conscious and it’s going in, I don’t know,” Gilder-Tilbury said. “I’m not even going to lie, I want the ball in the last seconds.”

Like the final score suggests, it wasn’t an offensive display inside Strahan Coliseum. Similar to Saturday's win over Little Rock, Texas State didn’t settle for looks in the second half and attacked Arkansas State’s defense more resulting in 21 second-half free throw attempts led by freshman Nijal Pearson’s 13. The team only had two scorers in double figures in Gilder-Tilbury with a game-high 21 points and Pearson with 15. 

“I was just trying to let the game come to me,” Pearson said after scoring two points in the first half. “I didn’t want to force anything and just get like a rhythm of the game and it took a little longer than I thought it would. I think in the first half, we were kind of forcing things so I just let the game slow down and speed it up in my own sense.”

Texas State creeped over the 40 percent shooting mark to end the game and Arkansas State shot just 37.3 percent from the floor. Carter, a Preseason First-Team All-Conference selection, was held to 2-of-10 shooting by Pearson.

The Beaumont-native had one of his toughest challenges of the season in Carter who was averaging 16.7 points heading into the game. Heading into Monday night, Pearson was hearing it from his teammates about Carter’s talents. They like to prod at the freshman whenever he has a tough defensive assignment and prop up whoever he’s guarding in hopes of hyping Pearson up.

“They do that to me to try and get under my skin,” Pearson said. “I guess they think it worked a few times so they stay at it. I wanted to accept the challenge.

“I wanted to find out how good I was.”

Carter was held scoreless after the 8:28 mark in the first half.

“This young man is not only, in my opinion, showing how good of a player he is scoring points, but he’s also doing a pretty good job defensively,” Kaspar said. “For us to put a freshman on their best player, I think says volumes.”

Midway through the second half, Kaspar elected to go small and substituted Immanuel King for Nedeljko Priojovic. The forward tallied six points, five rebounds and dished out two critical assists to Ojai Black and Gilder-Tilbury in his 18 minutes of play. King finished with six points and six rebounds.

Georgia State and Georgia Southern both lost Monday night as well which puts UT Arlington in sole possession of first. Texas State travels to face the Georgia schools this weekend with Georgia State up first at 4 p.m. Saturday.

San Marcos Daily Record

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