Photo from the Sun Belt Conference
Texas State defeats South Alabama, advances to Sun Belt tournament semifinals
Texas State ended a two-game losing streak with a 79-67 win over South Alabama in the Sun Belt tournament quarterfinals on Friday inside Lakefront Arena in New Orleans.
The Bobcats (24-8, 12-6 Sun Belt) used a 19-point effort from senior guard Tre Nottingham to down the Jaguars (17-17, 8-10). Senior forward Alex Peacock added 17 points, junior guard Nijal Pearson tallied 12 points and junior guard Jaylen Shead amassed 11 points.
"We were happy to see South Alabama win that game (against Louisiana on Thursday) only because I felt like it was motivating for our players to see South Alabama after they beat us at their place," head coach Danny Kaspar said. "They’re a very good basketball team, they have a lot of talent on that team. I felt like once they won the game yesterday that motivated our players even more to come and play.
"We walked away from that loss in Mobile a couple weeks ago feeling pretty bad about ourselves. (Tonight) was a good win. It was a very good win for us. They executed very well and played good defense. I’m very proud of the way our players performed today."
Texas State jumped out to a 4-0 lead to begin Friday’s contest after a layup from Shead and a jumper from Peacock. But the Jaguars responded with an 8-2 run to grab an 8-6 advantage.
The Bobcats went back on top, 10-8, after a bucket by Peacock. Texas State’s defense kept the Jaguars off the board for nearly seven minutes. The Bobcats took advantage of South Alabama’s cold streak with an 11-0 run to secure 23-11 lead.
Texas State held onto a double-digit lead until Jaguar junior guard Herb McGee knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 32-25. The Bobcats took a 34-28 lead into the intermission.
Texas State exchanged baskets early in the second half but a 3-pointer from Nottingham and a layup by junior forward Eric Terry put it ahead, 43-33.
The Bobcats held their largest lead at 52-35 after two free throws from Pearson. But the Jaguars answered with a 6-0 run to get within 52-46.
South Alabama sliced the deficit to seven points with 2:07 left in regulation with a layup from McGee. But that’s as close as the Jaguars would get.
Texas State closed out the game to secure the 79-67 victory.
“We just kept up our intensity," Peacock said. "Going into the game we had it in our minds that we weren’t going to get outworked. We got out worked the last couple of games and we said that we were going to get back to how we were in the beginning and when we made our big run. We knew we had to keep up the intensity on defense. On offense, we’re going to make shots and we’re going to miss shots. But, on defense, we have to hold to it.”
The Bobcat defense performed much better than it did in its first game against South Alabama. The Jaguars converted 62 percent of their shots in their 77-63 win over Texas State on March 2. The Bobcats held their opponent to 42 percent from the field during Friday’s victory.
McGee led South Alabama with a game-high 25 points. Senior guard Rodrick Sikes added 15 points and graduate senior guard Kory Holden had 11 points.
Texas State advances to take on No. 1-seeded Georgia State (22-9, 13-5) in the tournament semifinals on Saturday at 3 p.m. The Bobcats split the season series against the Panthers. Texas State lost its first matchup, 73-69, on Jan. 5 but bounced back with an 81-68 victory on Jan. 24.