Missed free throws, defensive lapses cost Texas State in loss to UTSA

Photo by Gerald Castillo

Texas State Men's Basketball

Texas State wasn’t supposed to lose Wednesday.

Not when the Bobcats led UTSA, 73-64, with 1:10 remaining in regulation and not with a 97.7 percent winning probability.

But a nightmare 5-of-10 from the free-throw line in the final minute combined with a flurry of 15 Roadrunner points led the Bobcats to a 79-78 loss.

“This will be my 27th year as a head coach, this is one of my most disappointing losses, really,” head coach Danny Kaspar said. “One, it’s UTSA, and two, we really do have a young team even our seniors Tyler Blount and Deris Duncan didn’t play much last year. So, even two seniors have not played a lot of minutes of Division I basketball, and a win like this where we had to fight back, it would’ve been great for our morale."

Texas State’s loss Wednesday in front of 3,224 fans inside Strahan Coliseum came down to free throw shooting. Kaspar said the team shoots 50 to 60 percent during practice, and the Bobcats finished shooting 58.1 percent from the charity stripe against UTSA.

Texas State (0-2) improved on most areas Kaspar wanted to see improvement at. The Bobcats, who had turned the ball over 20 times in their loss to Air Force on Sunday, only had nine turnovers Wednesday. Kaspar also asked his team for more rebounds — The Bobcats outrebounded UTSA, 41-36.

But the Bobcat defense also committed costly errors in the final minute. Kaspar told his defense to switch on ball-screens and handoffs. But UTSA (2-0) took advantage when the Bobcats failed to follow Kaspar’s instructions with a 3-pointer from freshman guard Keaton Wallace and sophomore guard Giovanni De Nicolao to aid the rally.

“We had it,” Kaspar said. “I can’t remember the last time I’ve lost a game, my team’s lost a game like that, and I don’t want to say other than the missed free throws there at the end basically our problem was defensive lapses.”

Texas State struggled to start the opening half. The Bobcats fell behind 13-5, but rallied behind six points from sophomore guard Nijal Pearson and senior forward Immanuel King. Senior guard Deris Duncan and junior guard Isaiah Gurley added five points each. Texas State built a 28-22 advantage but its offense stagnated for the final 5:49 of the half. UTSA used the Bobcats’ offensive woes to go on a 12-4 run and held a 34-32 advantage at the half.

“We’ve got to come ready to play and we’ve got to close out halves,” Kaspar said.

Texas State rallied in the second half, which was ignited by an 18-point period from senior guard Tyler Blount. The Bobcats began to pull away from the Roadrunners after the game was tied at 63-63. Texas State saw its lead swell to 73-64 before UTSA staged its comeback.

Clinging to a 78-74 lead after Blount knocked down two free throws with 19 seconds remaining, the Bobcats allowed De Nicolao to bring the Roadrunners to within one point with a 3-pointer.

UTSA immediately fouled Blount, which proved beneficial after he missed both free throws. With eight seconds remaining, Texas State junior forward Alex Peacock was called for a foul. UTSA freshman guard Jhivvan Jackson converted both free throws to give the Roadrunners the 79-78 lead.

Gurley heaved a desperation 3-pointer with three second remaining but it caromed off the rim and Texas State dropped its second game of the season.

Kaspar admitted he’d rather suffer a loss like this early in the season than before Sun Belt play.

But Texas State won’t take solace in an early season loss. It won’t fix a frustrating defeat, where five missed free throws were the difference in a game the Bobcats weren't supposed to lose.

San Marcos Daily Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666