Photo by Gerald Castillo
Bobcats fall to Trojans; game against Jaguars canceled
COVID-19 caught up to the Sun Belt’s defending champion.
Coming off of their first conference title last season, Texas State took the floor against Troy on Thursday inside Strahan Arena to leave off where they were — on top of the league. Earlier in the week, head coach Terrence Johnson found out three of his players had COVID-like symptoms and were forced to miss the conference opener. Thirty minutes before Thursday’s pregame shootaround Johnson notified his team they would be missing two more players in the last game of 2021.
Guards Shelby Adams, Drue Drinnon, Mason Harrell and Darien Jenkins and forward Tyrel Morgan all sat out Thursday’s 78-63 loss to the Trojans. The last-minute changes affected the rotations and forced different players to have to play larger roles than usual.
“We have a tough, resilient group. They’re committed to the cause,” Johnson said. “They want to step up and try to do all they can do to represent the program and themselves well. I thought our guys did a really good job of locking in and understanding that we’re gonna try to control the controllables. Unfortunately, these are the times that we’re in. You got seven able bodies, you gotta play a basketball game. So that’s what we did tonight.”
Senior forward Isiah Small explained what it was like finding out his team would be without multiple people just before the shootaround.
“At first, it was shocking because the players we needed weren’t available,” Small said. “It kind of messed up the whole game plan. It had to change immediately. In reality, it’s just like the next man has to step up and do what we do because we are here to play basketball. We are all here for a reason. At that point, it’s like the next man has to step up and do what we have to do and try to win.”
Troy took advantage of the lack of depth on the Bobcats’ bench by pressing them the whole night and forcing the hosts to play at multiple different tempos throughout the game.
At first, Texas State (9-4, 0-1 Sun Belt) had no problems breaking the 2-2-1 press of the Trojans, taking an early 9-7 lead. Troy (10-4 1-0) kept the pressure on and stole the advantage at the 14:52 mark of the first half and never relinquished it again. The lack of depth and last-minute changes played a role in Texas State’s lack of offensive efficiency — the maroon and gold went into the locker room trailing 33-24, the second lowest first half point total for the hosts this season. They also shot only 31% from the field in the first half and 30% from beyond the arc.
“It was a tough game for us to get into an offensive flow. I think you gotta give credit to Troy in their ability to defend and extend us the way they did. I thought one of the big keys of the game for me was we usually can outscore guys in the paint with our paint points. And the second-chance points that we gave up hurt us a little bit in this game. It’s the first game of conference play, you know, it’s never won in the first week. You don’t win a conference in the first week.”
Once they adjusted, it looked more like the Bobcat offense that scores 73 points per game. But defensively, they couldn’t get enough stops to get themselves over the hump. Small ignited the offense for Texas State by scoring six consecutive points for the Bobcats to start the second half. They were able to cut the lead down to seven twice in the second half. Senior guard Caleb Asberry scored two of his 14 points on a layup with 12:28 to leave the score at 49-42.
Texas State was able to get the lead down to single digits one more time but never got any closer than nine in the 78-63 loss to Troy.
Multiple players including sophomore guards Dylan Dawson (39) and Davion Coleman (27) were forced to play season highs in minutes against Troy. Small led the way with 17 points and eight rebounds, followed by senior forward Nighael Ceaser who scored 16 points on 6-9 shooting from the field with seven rebounds. Asberry finished with 14 points, six rebounds and six assists.
The day before the season opener, the Sun Belt conference revised its minimum threshold for a game to be played, requiring at least seven players and one full-time coach to be available. The Bobcats’ game against South Alabama scheduled for Saturday was canceled as a result.
Texas State is scheduled to play Georgia Southern on Jan. 6 at 6 p.m. inside of Hanner Fieldhouse. Asberry said he isn’t too worried about the loss and won’t let the morale of the locker room fall too much after one game in conference play.
“I felt like we’re gonna be ready because everyone in the locker room, we’re not mad right now because we know if we would’ve had everybody, we for sure would have beat them by 40,” Asberry said. “I just feel like we’re gonna come back and play Texas State basketball and we’re not really too worried right now.”