Photo by Lance Winter
Texas State starts season with convincing win over Air Force
Call it whatever you’d like.
A baptism. A posterizing. A monster jam. Whichever exuberant basketball adjective you choose, it was the spark Texas State was looking for.
Sophomore forward Quentin Scott rose through the air and slammed the ball down over the outstretched arm of Air Force freshman guard A.J. Walker to send the crowd of 4,058 inside Strahan Arena on Friday into a frenzy.
“Oh, that was crazy,” junior forward Nijal Pearson said. “That was crazy. Coach (Terrence) Johnson gets on Quentin a lot. He’s really athletic but sometimes he doesn’t dunk the ball. You know what I’m saying? So, to see him dunk on someone like that it’s crazy.”
Scott’s slam dunk came in the midst of a 22-9 run Texas State used to close out the first half. The Bobcats took a 33-22 lead into the half and never relinquished it.
Texas State (1-0) took down Air Force (1-1), 67-57, in convincing fashion on Friday.
“We’re very happy with the win,” head coach Danny Kaspar said. “I thought our team played very hard tonight, played very good defense … As the Air Force coach came up to me, head coach (Dave Pilipovich) came up to me, after the game and said, ‘Man, you guys really played hard,’ and I agree with that.”
Both teams started off slowly. At the first media timeout with 15:37 left in the first half half, only 12 points were scored with the Bobcats leading 7-5. Kaspar said nerves caused the lack of offense in the opening minutes.
“I would tell you the first 10 minutes was probably nerves,” Kaspar said. “First-game excitement, just really revved up, and I thought (Air Force) did a good job too. They controlled the tempo of the game with their offense and their a good defensive team. Two teams, first game of the year, crowd there and we played a little over excited I thought. But not on defense, now. I just didn’t think on offense we were playing very well.”
Texas State’s offense went cold for nearly five minutes midway through the first half and Air Force took advantage. The Falcons went on an 8-2 run to grab a 13-10 advantage.
But the Bobcat offense found its rhythm. Starting point guard Jaylen Shead, who finished with 11 points, four assists and four rebounds, helped the Bobcats find their groove by putting the team in a position to succeed.
“For me, (my mindset) was kind of get in the right spot, get the guys in the right spot,” Shead said. “It was the first game. There’s was a lot excitement, a lot of emotion. First four minutes you could see the guys were breathing kind of hard. So, it was controlling the tempo not only for the game but also with the emotional standpoint. It was just staying focused and concentrating, buckle down.”
Texas State seized control of the half with Scott’s emphatic dunk. Then a flurry of points came and the Bobcats held a 10-point lead at the intermission.
Texas State secured a 13-point advantage twice early in the second half. But Air Force quickly sliced the Bobcats’ lead to single digits.
The Falcons cut the deficit to 40-35, but Texas State responded with a 16-7 run to grab a 14-point lead.
Air Force didn’t go down quietly though. The Falcons got to within 62-57 with 1:11 remaining in regulation. But Texas State put Air Force away to win the season opener, 67-57.
Pearson said the Bobcats never got nervous late in the game despite the late run by the Falcons.
“If we weren’t going to score, we knew they weren’t going to score either,” Pearson said. “As long as we had the (defense), we knew we were going to buckle down and we just knew we had to make free throws and rebound the ball. If we could secure the rebound, we were going to be all right.”
Pearson, who scored his 1,000th career point as a Bobcat against Air Force, paced Texas State with 21 points, five assists and four rebounds. Senior forward Alex Peacock added 14 points and four rebounds.
The Bobcats return to action Tuesday against Hardin Simmons at 6 p.m. inside Strahan Arena.
Can fans expect more dunks like Scott’s strong slam as the season progresses? Pearson says keep coming to games if you liked that.
“We know we’re an athletic team,” Pearson said. “So, we know there’s more dunks to come.”