San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

December 4th, 2008
Bobcats sharpen up in easy men’s buckets win

By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large

The home court blowout victory against the over-matched NAIA opponent is about all local enthusiasts have been able to witness from the Texas State men’s basketball team early this season. But not all such games are as similar as they might appear.

The Bobcats have played twice at home now, the second coming Wednesday night in a surprisingly entertaining 110-65 win against Southwestern Assemblies of God (SAGU). Compared with their 104-81 win against Huston-Tillotson two weeks earlier at Strahan Coliseum, the Bobcats played a much sharper game and showed much more promise Wednesday night, even if the game didn’t go down without its flaws.

The Bobcats would have blown past their school record of 111 points, set in a 111-90 win against Northwestern State on Jan. 27, 1990, except that they made only 15 of their 30 free throws Wednesday night. Such was their ease in victory as they improved to 3-3 this season.

Free throw shooting remains an area that will cost this team games without improvement. For the year, the Bobcats are making only 56.9 percent of their free throws (82 of 144). For a frame of reference, consider that Texas State opponents have made 151 of 205 free throws, 73.7 percent. If the Bobcats were making 73.7 percent of their free throws, it would be worth another 24 points over their first six games this season.

It’s worth mentioning, on that score, that the Bobcats lost by a point to Wyoming last week, 97-96, when they made only ten of 19 free throws. A handful of made free throws could have made a difference in their other two losses to San Francisco (88-74) and Northern Colorado (105-93). And that’s before considering that opponents have gone to the line an average of ten more times per game than the Bobcats.

So, that’s one issue. Another is defense, in which the Bobcats looked like a much better team Wednesday night against Southwestern Assemblies (4-2), a fairly solid looking club in Huston-Tillotson’s Red River Conference. The Lions actually took a 9-8 lead barely more than four minutes into the game before Texas State clamped down and allowed SAGU to make only five field goals for the last 15:42 of the first half.

“I thought our defense from the 16-minute mark to halftime was the best we’ve had it since I’ve been in this program,” said third-year Texas State coach Doug Davalos.

Davalos added that he has placed more emphasis on the team’s half-court defense in the last couple weeks. The Bobcats responded by holding SAGU to 35.8-percent field goal shooting (25 of 65). The lectures on defense are sure to continue from Davalos as he tries to qualify his team for the Southland Conference Tournament in March.

“It’s understanding that offense is superficial beauty, but defense is your character,” Davalos said. “We can be a superficially pretty team, or we can be a character team, and this team has the ability to be both.”

The Bobcats built on a 53-20 halftime lead and kept it moving through the end, finishing with a 52.4-percent field goal shooting, the third time in the last four games that they’ve topped 50 percent. Cameron Johnson and John Bowman came off the bench to join starting guard Brent Benson with 14 points to lead the Texas State scoring. Center Ty Gough scored 13 points with eight rebounds in 24 minutes.

While the Bobcats’ home schedule is admittedly light because, said Davalos, “Division I teams won’t come here,” the Bobcats continue to face tougher opponents on the road. Saturday, they play at Rice. A week later, they go to Texas.

“We just have to keep getting better,” Benson said. “Texas and Rice will help get us ready for the conference.”

Meanwhile, the Bobcats can digest a solid victory. If they didn’t exactly sharpen their defensive chops against the likes of North Carolina Wednesday night, they still looked better gelled than in their home opener a couple weeks earlier.

“We have to hold our hat on getting stops and not on being lucky,” Davalos said. “Being lucky is when you foul your guy and he misses his free throws, or when your guy gets past you and misses the shot. We have to get stops … In a game like this, it can get pretty sloppy. But we stayed pretty solid tonight.”

Solid enough to hold their hats, anyway.

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