Texas State point guard Ryan White led the Bobcats with 19 points in a win Saturday against Sam Houston State. Texas State sports information photo.
A meeting between the two hottest teams in the Southland Conference will characterize Texas State’s debut in the league tournament Wednesday night (8:30 p.m.) in Katy.
The Bobcats and Southeastern Louisiana each have won three straight going to their meeting, which will cap off the first round of the tournament. Southeastern Louisiana (16-11 overall, 10-6) Southland, goes in as the No. 4 seed, while the Bobcats (15-15, 9-7) are the No. 5 seed.
The winner is likely to take a Thursday turn against top-seeded Sam Houston State (22-7, 14-2), which opens at 6 p.m. Thursday against the last team in, Nicholls State (11-18, 7-9). Each of Sam Houston’s league losses this came in overtime on the road.
One of those was at Strahan Coliseum Saturday, when the Bobcats claimed a 101-97 win as they honored their 1960 NAIA national championship team. John Rybak and Emmanuel Bidias A’ Moute, two seniors playing for the final time at Strahan Coliseum, combined for 41 points and 14 rebounds.
Rybak scored 25 points, including a free throw with 0.4 seconds left to force the game into overtime at 87-87. Rybak then started the overtime with a steal and a full-court sprint for a layup, giving the Bobcats an 89-87 lead. The Bobcats never again trailed.
Later in the overtime, Rybak made a free throw, then snagged a defensive rebound and hit Ryan White with the outlet pass for a lay-up that made it 94-90.
White led the Bobcats with 19 points. Rybak and Cameron Johnson tied for the team lead with eight rebounds. Johnson also scored 13 points, while Bidias A’ Moute added 16 points and six rebounds. Sam Houston’s Gilberto Clavell led all scorers with 35 points.
The Bobcats shot a dead even 50 percent (36 for 72), while Sam Houston shot 46.2 percent (30 of 65). But Sam Houston stayed in the game because it performed much better at the free-throw line, making 30 of 36, compared with 20 of 33 for the Bobcats.
In order to get another crack at Sam Houston State in the second round, the Bobcats would have to deal with Southeastern Louisiana. The Lions are one of the league’s tighter defensive teams, which makes them the kind of team against which the Bobcats have struggled.
Southeastern Louisiana ranks third in the league in scoring defense, allowing 65.8 points per game. The Bobcats are 11th in that category, giving up 77.8 points per game. Not surprisingly, the Bobcats lost at Southeastern Louisiana, 75-66, on Feb. 3. Against the top four scoring defenses in the Southland, the Bobcats are 2-4.
The Bobcats are second in the league in scoring with 77.1 points per game, while Southeastern Louisiana is fifth at 72.1 points per game. The Lions lead the league in field goal percentage (47.5) and field goal percentage defense (39.5). The Bobcats lead the league in steals (9.3 per game) and are second in assists (14.6).
In their earlier meeting with Southeastern Louisiana on Feb. 3, the Bobcats’ starting front line of Johnson, Rybak and Bidias A’ Moute combined for only 19 points on four-of-20 shooting. Southeastern Louisiana center Patrick Sullivan scored 23 by himself, to go with 10 rebounds.
Sullivan is sixth in Southland Conference scoring (15.7 points), third in rebounding (8.7) and sixth in field goal percentage (53.1 percent). Johnson is eighth in the league in scoring (14.3), fifth in rebounding (7.9) and seventh in steals (1.6).
On the other side of the tournament bracket, second-seeded Stephen F. Austin (21-8, 11-5) takes on seventh-seeded Texas-Arlington (16-13, 8-8) at noon Thursday, followed by third-seeded Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (16-14, 10-6) against sixth-seeded Texas-San Antonio (19-10, 9-7) at 2:30 p.m.