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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Men’s basketball suffers conference tournament loss to App State

Texas+State+Bobcats+celebrate+and+sing+the+school+alma+mater+together+after+a+79-68+victory+over+the+UTA+Mavericks%2C+Saturday%2C+Feb.+13%2C+2021%2C+at+Strahan+Arena.

Texas State Bobcats celebrate and sing the school alma mater together after a 79-68 victory over the UTA Mavericks, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, at Strahan Arena.

Despite a miraculous comeback to secure overtime, Texas State men’s basketball (18-7 overall, 12-3 Sun Belt) exited the Sun Belt Conference Tournament after its first game against the Appalachian State University Mountaineers (15-11 overall, 7-8 Sun Belt) 76-73 on March 6.
A mythical shooting spell in the last, desperate moments of the game from junior guard Caleb Asberry (17 PTS, 6-16 FGS, 4-9 3FGS, 10 REB) could not seal the win for the Maroon and Gold. Instead, the Bobcats walk away from an unexpectedly successful season under Interim Head Coach Terrence Johnson with a bittersweet taste in their mouths.
The Bobcats came into the game with the Sun Belt’s regular-season title along with the No. 1 seed in the West Division while App State was No. 4 in the East.
Texas State kept their usual tendencies of defensive solidarity and ball movement around the perimeter to find open shots but was figured out by App State’s defense and consistent second-half shooting.
Both teams emerged from the tunnels locked in defensively. Senior guard Justin Forrest (28 PTS, 5-13 FG, 4-8 3FG, 14-17 FT) opened the scoring for App State with a three. Texas State’s suffocating style of defending forced plenty of Mountaineer misses, along with poor shooting form from App State. Texas State, while initially better than its opponents in the early minutes of the half, fell victim to the same arhythmic stretch of play.
The lack of established dominance in the early game likely resulted from the inability to slow the game down. Neither team gave the other a chance to catch their breath or gain an advantage. Shots came fast and frequently, with both sides seemingly deciding to pull up until their droughts broke. Both teams shot a combined 8-25 from the field in the first 8:29 of play where neither team took a timeout or made a substitution.
Junior guard Mason Harrell (20 PTS, 9-17 FG, 2-5 3PT) ran the game in the first half with his movement and vision, scoring seven of his points while grabbing three boards in the period. The rest of the scoring was distributed evenly across the team, with no one player shining on the offensive side of the game.
Graduate guard Michael Almonacy led Mountaineers scoring seven points in the first half, with Forrest, only one point behind him. For the most part, Texas State locked down its opponent’s scoring, even taking a nine-point lead with 2:02 to go in the half off a layup from junior forward Nighael Ceaser.
Ceaser (10 PTS, 3-6 FG, 4-4 FT) scrapped well under the rim in the first half, but his defensive interference backfired when App State began to find their form. Ceaser fouled out with just under two minutes left in overtime.
The last two minutes of the half forecasted the loss of composure awaiting Texas State, as a travel call plus a missed layup and jumper allowed App State to close the gap at six for the halftime whistle, 26-20.
App State appeared more unrefined than outmatched in the first half, a problem it eventually remedied after returning to the court. Texas State kept its patterns of play going in the early minutes of the second, taking its biggest lead of the game at the 17:39 mark with a Harrell jumper from mid-range bring the score to 32-21.
After the game, senior guard Shelby Adams says the Mountaineers did not deceive the Bobcats to swing the game back their way but won key battles all over the court.
“There was nothing that [App State] did that we got confused on,” Adams says. “They just made key shots and got key offensive rebounds, made kick-out threes.”
From there, the Bobcat grip on the game loosened, the Mountaineers going a series of uncontested scoring runs, like a 6-0 run from 16:31 to 15:00 to shrink the lead at 35-30. Alongside renewed shooting from their opponents, the Bobcats came up blank on almost every possession in the latter part of the second period. Between 7:41 and 1:07, they were outscored 18-4. That, and a 9-0 run for App State from 3:09 to 1:07 put the Bobcats behind eight points and seemingly on the way back to San Marcos.
Adams says the team’s mental state never waivered, knowing the opportunities would present themselves if they kept pushing.
“Everybody has to stay level-headed,” Adams says. “Even if they make a run, we still gotta keep our heads up. Keep chopping wood.”
With the season on the line, the Bobcats needed a hero. Asberry answered the call.
The first bucket fell with 26 seconds left, cutting the lead to 5 at 61-56. Intentional fouling began, sending Forrest to the line. Forrest, who perfectly sank all nine of his previous free throws, missed two of four in the final seconds of the game, allowing the faintest opening for Asberry to leave his legacy.
Small assisted in the comeback, making his own long-range three with 16 seconds left, bringing App State’s lead down to three. Two made free throws by the Mountaineers extended the lead to five.
Another Asberry three from deep beyond the left side of the arc further fanned the flames, with the lead now just two points.
Forrest missed his second free throw of the game, Asberry grabbed the rebound and drove down the court with four seconds left. Corralled into the deep right-wing and guarded by an outstretched Forrest, the former rotation player, now-starter, let the shot fly just before the buzzer rang throughout the Pensacola Bay Center.
Overtime — 65-65. Five more minutes to save the season.
Ecstatic celebrations were curtailed to focus on the game, an easy challenge for his players, according to Johnson.
“I don’t think that’s challenging at all, to be honest with you,” Johnson says. “It’s just part of the game. Basketball is a transition sport, and when things move that fast you’re gonna have emotions. It’s all about how you settle them down. And if that’s something that’s challenging for you, then you’re probably in the wrong business.”
He did not discount the emotion, however; adding the passion exhibited in the celebrations as a crucial part of the game.
“What is basketball without emotion?” Johnson asks. “It would be equivalent to watching paint dry. That’s the stuff that you embrace. These are memories.”
The Bobcats won the jump ball and gave the first overtime chance to the player who got them there; Asberry casually drained his fourth three in a row. Two missed free throws by App State meant a three-point lead and a new lease on life for Texas State, an unthinkable prospect 30 seconds before the end of regulation.
App State could have understandably crumbled after the sudden shift in momentum, but remained calm and fed the ball to their reliable scorers. A corner three and two free throws from Forrest gave the lower seed a three-point lead. Harrell pulled up from mid-range to claw back within one, but Almonacy drove the dagger into the Bobcats with a three-pointer bringing the score to 76-72 with under a minute to play.
Small went one of two from the line to potentially set up another miraculous finish, but Asberry could not convert for his fifth consecutive three. Mountaineers upset the regular-season champions 76-73.
Johnson says the team would continue to adapt to the problems as they arise.
“Nobody expected me to be here doing this right now with you guys — I still have an interim tag in front of my name, but all is well,” Johnson says. “We have no issues with anything that comes our way. So we’re going to pick up the pieces. These guys are gonna pick each other up like they’ve been doing all season. We’re gonna [adapt] to whatever this world brings us.”
App State Head Coach Dustin Kerns credited the Bobcats on making “incredibly tough shots” and applauded their resiliency. He says Johnson deserves a five-year contract for proving his worth to the program.
“Johnson should be the head coach at Texas State,” Kerns says. “I don’t know what we’re waiting on. Give him the job. He won the league in his first year. He did a terrific job. …Let’s do the right thing.”
Johnson says the team could walk away with their heads held high despite the loss, winning one of two available prizes in the Sun Belt. He credited the recruiting over the last five years, the work put in during the offseason and the foundation built by former head coach Danny Kaspar, whose resignation over allegations of racially insensitive remarks by a former player handed Johnson the job in the first place.
“I got a great group of guys that I wouldn’t trade for the world,” Johnson says. “We’ll run it back next year.”

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