Photo by Gerald Castillo
Bobcats fall to No. 6 seed after Senior Night loss to Little Rock
Texas State head coach Zenarae Antoine felt her team was penalized for playing.
After taking the Strahan Arena floor for the final time this season on Saturday, Texas State celebrated its three seniors who won’t return next season: Jo’nah Johnson, Gabby Standifer and Jaeda Reed. The Bobcats fell in a 70-53 loss to Little Rock, dropping them from a potential No. 3 seed in the Sun Belt tournament all the way down to the No. 6 seed and forcing a matchup with No. 11 seed South Alabama in the first round of the bracket.
Head coach Zenerae Antoine was particularly upset because Troy, UTA and Texas State (14-3, 9-6 conference) were the only teams to complete a full conference schedule while fighting through injuries and Covid.
“If people knew how hard this team worked, and how we made a collective decision, starting with me, to play games — in some ways it feels like a penalty,” Antoine said. “I see people have only played 10 games. We’ve played 15 games, so I hurt for my team.”
In the final home game, it was Little Rock (15-9, 9-5) that looked like it was playing on its home floor as the team opened the game up shooting 75% from beyond the arc, including a 3 from 30 feet out and a triple that went in off of the backboard. The Trojans average 4.1 threes per game but already had three in the first quarter, which gave them a 24-13 lead after one quarter of play.
The Trojans extended its lead up to as much as 15 in the second but buckets by three different players in maroon and gold gave the Bobcats some hope heading into halftime. Although the offense picked up, defensively it was a struggle for Texas State as Little Rock guard Sali Kourouma went for 18 points in the first half.
“We’ve got to play better defensively,” Antoine said. “It’s the same thing that I talked about last game as well. In-game, making the adjustments took us a while and then you hit a point as a player where you feel pressed, now your offense sometimes gets sped up to a place where you didn’t necessarily need for it to, which then puts pressure on your defense. Then we got into that vicious cycle.”
Senior guard Kennedy Taylor opened the second half with her fourth 3 of the game. At the seven-minute mark of the third quarter, sophomore guard Sierra Dickson took a hard drive to the paint and made the layup cutting Little Rock’s lead to three.
But the cycle Antoine mentioned began as the visitors started to score. That put Texas State in a state of panic offensively. The team tried to chip away at the lead but instead a three-minute scoring drought hit the Bobcats allowing their opponent to go back up 54-42 to end the quarter.
Little Rock’s lead continued to grow down the stretch and as time winded down in the 70-53 loss, the players who played their final game in Strahan started to feel it.
“To start this day, I knew that it was going to be sad,” Standifer said. “It was also going to be happy because I’m getting to do it with my teammates and like Coach (Antoine) said, it’s not over yet. It was just our last time at home and that is sad.”
Texas State heads to Pensacola, Fla., for the start of the Sun Belt tournament. The Bobcats face South Alabama (8-17, 2-10) on Wednesday in the first round inside the Pensacola Bay Center at 5 p.m. The meeting would mark the first time the two teams have met since Jan. 25, 2020, when they played a 78-76 double overtime thriller in which the Jaguars won. The winner will go on to play Lousiana (17-6, 9-4) on Friday at 5 p.m.
Antoine had to get through her emotions of senior night and the standings but she is aware of what the team needs to work on heading into its first round matchup next week.
“My focus is going to be on South Alabama. (Head coach Terry) Fowler does a great job,” Antoine said. “I know that they’re very guard-oriented. That’s going to be really important for us because we know we’ve got to work on containing off of the bounce. I’m excited that it’s somebody we haven’t seen.”