Bobcats hold off Chanticleers, stay perfect in Sun Belt
Earlier in the day, before Texas State’s game against Coastal Carolina, the Bobcats were getting some extra work in with their position groups.
Assistant coach Chandra Dorsey huddled the guards together to give them her notes. Head coach Zenarae Antoine interrupted.
“I don’t care what you’re telling them,” Antoine told Dorsey. “The No. 1 thing is rebound, rebound, rebound.”
Entering Thursday’s matchup, the Chanticleers were No. 1 in the Sun Belt at crashing the boards, outrebounding opponents by 12 per game. Antoine reminded her players about it all week long. Dorsey’s huddle was one of multiple instances.
“I just cut her off. I had no idea what Coach Dorsey was saying,” Antoine said. “I literally had that up on our scouting report. It said ‘rebound, box out, rebound, box out.’”
Texas State ended up outrebounding Coastal Carolina, 45-37, and earned its first conference home victory inside Strahan Arena, 73-58.
Zandra Emanuel played a major part on the boards. After the Chanticleers jumped out to a 5-0 lead to start the game, Emanuel collected a missed jump shot by sophomore forward Jayla Johnson and went back up with a reverse layup to give the Bobcats their first basket of the game. It was the first of eight first-half rebounds for the senior forward.
Most of them came on the offensive end, as Texas State shot just 24.3 percent from the field in the first half, missing 28 shots. The hosts trailed 32-26 at halftime, failing to cash in on their extra opportunities with just six second chance points. Antoine encouraged her team to start looking inside more on offense.
“Coming out of half time, (the coaches) really worked hard at stressing with our team what we needed to do, and that was own the first four minutes of the (second half),” Antoine said. “And they honestly owned all 10 minutes of that particular piece, that third quarter. And I’m proud of that effort.”
Junior guard Brooke Holle floated in a bucket to start the third quarter, and followed it up with a fastbreak layup. Fellow junior guard Bailey Holle found Emanuel in the paint for another layup and senior guard Toshua Leavitt sank her first 3-pointer on the next possession to give the Bobcats their first lead of the night with 6:04 left in the period, 37-36.
“(Scoring inside is) an everyday thing in practice,” Brooke Holle said. “We’re constantly doing drills. Whether its split up, guards and posts, we’re working on passing, they’re working on post moves, or we’re together, just working on our chemistry. It’s just great to see it coming along and pay off.”
Texas State continued to attack the interior. A pair of free throws by Johnson pushed the team’s lead to double digits with just over a minute left in the third.
Coastal Carolina scored just nine points in the quarter. The Bobcats’ defense helped hold off the Chanticleers in the fourth, as the hosts picked up the 73-58 victory. The visitors’ top two scorers, junior guards D.J. Williams and Caitlin Roche, were both held below their scoring averages, combining for just 13 points on 4-19 shooting.
“Excellent team defense,” Antoine said. “I think what we found was that once we settled down offensively, it made it much easier for our defense to get into position to guard whatever action they threw at us. I think that was really what I appreciated that the team did today, is that they made the adjustment at halftime and found a way to take it to that next level.”
After missing all six of her shots in the first half, Brooke Holle shot 6-9 in the second and finished with 19 points and 9 rebounds. Emanuel nearly notched her second double-double of the season with eight points and 13 rebounds.
“I just tried to locate the ball and check my defender,” Emanuel said. “Just box out and go get the ball and kick it out to my teammates when they spot up.”
Texas State (8-7, 3-0) is off to its best start in league play since the 2007-08 season, when the school was a part of the Southland Conference. The team is over .500 for the first time this season and will look to stay that way when it hosts Appalachian State at 2 p.m. on Saturday.