Photo by Gerald Castillo
Texas State locks down South Alabama, picks up 77-45 win
On Thursday, head coach Zenarae Antoine called South Alabama sophomore center Antoinette Lewis “an inside presence that no one else has in this conference.”
But after four of Texas State’s posts racked up at least eight points and three rebounds, the Bobcats proved they have a few inside presences of their own.
Antoine was asked about the solid play she got from her bigs after the maroon and gold defeated the Jaguars 77-45 on Saturday inside Strahan Arena. The head coach turned to freshman forward Da’Nasia Hood and patted her on the back.
“It’s about time,” Antoine said. “Just joking. Joking! Joking!
“With our forwards, the better that they’re able to play on both ends of the floor, the better we are. Obviously defensive stops and rebounds, but in a situation where we have a potential first-team all-conference player (in Lewis), you know, we ran a lot of different people at her tonight and each woman stepped up and made it tough.”
Lewis led the visitors with 13 points on the night, but the Bobcats didn’t give up much else, inside or out. The team nearly stayed even-keeled with South Alabama, losing the points in the paint battle, 30-26, but made up for it on the boards by outrebounding the Jaguars 45-35.
Texas State took a 5-3 lead four minutes into the game and never gave it up. South Alabama came close a few times, tying the game back up at 10-10 later in the first quarter and closing the second on a 10-3 run, trailing 31-27.
“In the first half, we gave up a lot of middle penetration, so it was easy for them to kick or get post feeds,” senior guard Toshua Leavitt said. “I don’t think we did that in the second half.”
The Bobcats locked down on defense. The visitors shot just 25.7 percent from the field and missed all 14 of their 3-point attempts in the second half. They scored 18 points, but 10 of them came in the final five minutes of the game, when the hosts were up by 30.
Leavitt, meanwhile, caught fire. Late in the third quarter, freshman guard Kennedy Taylor pushed the ball in transition to create a two-on-two scenario with her and Leavitt against two South Alabama defenders. Taylor drove in, drawing both Jaguars, and kicked it out to her teammate on the left wing for a triple.
Leavitt secured a rebound on the other end and this time ran the fastbreak herself. Nobody picked her up and the senior launched another trey from the top of the key in stride. The 3-pointer fell in, giving Texas State a 49-33 lead.
“We just busted it,” Leavitt said.
“Busted down and played defense,” Hood added. “When we play good defense, it leads to offense. It just gets us going.”
The hosts cruised through the fourth quarter and took the 77-45 victory.
Leavitt led the team with 20 points, 11 of them coming in the third quarter. She was followed by freshman center Jaeda Reed with 12 and Hood with 11. Junior forward Jazza Johns posted a team-high 10 boards to go along with her eight points.
The win pushes the Bobcats to 14-15 on the season and 9-8 in Sun Belt play, good for sixth place in the conference. Texas State will get a bye on Thursday before hosting UT Arlington on Saturday inside Strahan Arena for senior night. Antoine said she hopes her team keeps up the defensive effort.
“The buy-in to defense and how that correlates to offense is something that is really and truly what I’ve been reaching and searching for from our team,” Antoine said. “When we play well defensively, we’re pretty tough because we get into a really good rhythm offensively. So, I’m proud of the overall effort and execution of our team.”