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Photo by Gerald Castillo 

Bobcats' season faces adversity with Pearson injury, loss to Georgia State

Saturday, January 5, 2019

In one play, Texas State’s game against Georgia State changed, so did the complexion of its season. 

With 12:01 remaining in the second half and the game knotted at 41, junior guard Nijal Pearson ripped the ball out of the hands of Panther junior guard D’Marcus Simonds’ hands. 

Racing up the court, Pearson looked poised for a layup. But Simonds blocked the ball and on the follow through smacked Pearson in the face. No call was made, however. Pearson went down to the floor and as Simonds tried to run down the court Pearson appearingly took a swipe at him.

Pearson was ejected from the game on a flagrant 2 foul. He may also miss additional time with a possible broken nose from Simonds’ follow through.   

Without their leading scorer, the Bobcats battled but fell short against Georgia State, 73-69, on Saturday in front of a small crowd of 1,437 inside Strahan Arena.

“Now they’re saying my guess is that (Simonds) really fouled him first and that’s why he’s got the broken nose and the referees didn’t call it,” head coach Danny Kaspar said. 

After Pearson was ejected, the Panthers took command of the game, building a 13-point lead. 

“With or without Nijal, him being our leading scorer, we need to keep the same gameplan, keep executing the gameplan,” senior guard Tre Nottingham said. “I feel like him going out did hurt a little bit because we’re used to playing with our leading scorer. 

“But nevertheless we made some minor mistakes. We’ve got hit our free throws, including myself, I think I missed three or four free throws, and we turned over the ball a little bit. At the end of the day, it’s still on our end to pick up the slack.”

Texas State rallied to cut the deficit down to three with four seconds left in the game. But the Bobcats couldn’t complete the comeback. 

“It’s a very disappointing loss for us,” Kaspar said. “I’ll watch the game (tape). I thought we shot too many 3s, their defense had something to do that. Believe me they were told, ‘Fellas, we can’t shoot 25 3s’ and we shot exactly 25 3s. … We really rebounded the ball —  17 offensive rebounds is good. I was worried about turnovers, we only had 11. We worked on that.”

Texas State (12-3, 1-1 Sun Belt) struggled from the free throw line against Georgia State (11-4, 2-0), going 15 of 29 from the charity stripe. 

“We’re shooting around 50 percent from the free throw line and that point that’s getting me mad, ‘Guys, why do we think we can shoot from the 3-point line and win games when we can’t shoot from the free-throw line that good?’” Kaspar said. 

The Bobcats also had trouble with the Panthers’ zone. Texas State took advantage of its opponents’ defense by going inside to junior forward Eric Terry, who scored 10 points. But the Panthers adjusted and prevented the Bobcats from going inside. 

“At times we got stagnant and we were trying to figure out plays and stuff like that,” junior guard Jaylen Shead said. “But I think we have to be more aggressive toward the dribble. We tried to shoot as many 3s but at the same time those were the opening shots. But I feel like myself and the guards, we have to get more into the paint, you know, attack those zones and get everybody involved.” 

The Bobcats held Simonds — the Sun Belt Preseason Player of the Year — to just seven points. But the Panthers had three players finish in double figures. Senior forward Malik Benlevi led Georgia State with 19 points followed by sophomore guard Kane Williams’ 17 points and senior guard Devin Mitchell’s 16. 

Nottingham paced Texas State with 17 points and Shead added 13 points. Pearson tallied 10 points and six rebounds before he left the game. 

With uncertainty surrounding Pearson, the Bobcats look ahead to a two-game road trip against Coastal Carolina on Thursday and Appalachian State on Saturday. 

“We just got to keep going, keep pushing, keep practicing and we’ll be fine,” Nottingham said. “We’re not going to let one game hang over our heads too much. We’re going to keep our heads up and we’ll be back at it.”