By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay
The Texas State Bobcats rebounded from a blowout loss at Oklahoma earlier this week, pulled away from the rival UTSA Roadrunners late and emerged with a 72-62 victory Friday night in San Marcos.
Playing their home opener at Strahan Arena, the Bobcats put forth a strong effort in the paint to win their first game in the I-35 rivalry since 2018.
UTSA had won four out of its last five in the series but failed to get much going on the offensive end, shooting 31.7 percent from the field. The Roadrunners also turned it over 13 times en route to their fewest points this season and their third straight loss.
“They’re really good defensively,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told Jay Howard on the school’s radio broadcast. “They’ve been that way (for years). That’s the sixth time we’ve played against them since I’ve been here and we always know how tough they’re going to be.”
Texas State entered the game looking to make amends for a 93-54 loss to Oklahoma on Tuesday night. The game was played in Norman, Okla., at the home of the Sooners.
As the the Bobcats left Big 12 territory and returned home, their big men answered the challenge and played well against the Roadrunners, a team transitioning into the American Athletic Conference this season.
Six-foot-seven forward Christian Turner led the charge for the Bobcats of the Sun Belt, scoring 19 points. He kept taking it inside and getting fouled, leading to 10 of 12 shooting at the line. Six-foot-nine Brandon Love enjoyed a big night, as well, with 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Six-foot-six guard Joshua O’Garro had 13 points, including 11 in the second half.
For the Roadrunners, 6-3 point guard Christian Tucker led with 16 points, three rebounds and three assists. Small forward Dre Fuller Jr. scored 13, including a three-for-six effort from the three-point line.
On the other hand, UTSA starting post players Carlton Linguard, Jr., and Trey Edmonds never found a rhythm, as both fouled out, scoreless, on zero-for-three shooting from the field.
UTSA led in the game only a few times but nevertheless stayed within two possessions for the most part. At the end, however, things came unraveled for the Roadrunners as the Bobcats kept attacking and pushed the lead to double figures for much of the final three minutes.
Texas State 2-2
UTSA at Houston Christian, Monday, 7 p.m.
Starting slowly, the Roadrunners misfired on six of their first seven shots from the field and allowed the Bobcats to take an early 8-2 lead on the scoreboard. The UTSA offense never quite find traction, but it did produce five 3-point baskets.
Meanwhile, Texas State did a good job of scoring in the paint and emerged with a 27-25 halftime lead. With Tyrel Morgan and a few other Texas State players injured and unavailable, Turner scored 10 points and Love had seven for the Bobcats.
For the Roadrunners, Tucker led the way with seven points. He was one of five UTSA players with a three-pointer in the half.
UTSA had won six of eight, four of five and the last two meetings in the I-35 rivalry. Texas State put a stop to the surge with a grind-it-out victory that wasn’t pretty except for the final verdict. In a series that started in 1985, played between schools only 50 miles apart, UTSA still leads, 37-26.
The Roadrunners stayed in the game early with three-point shooting, hitting five of 15 from beyond the stripe in the first half. In response, Texas State did a much better job guarding the perimeter late, as UTSA made only three of 12 from distance after intermission.
UTSA opened the season with a 10-point victory at home, in overtime, against Western Illinois. The team started a four-game road trip at Minnesota last Friday and lost 102-76. UTSA played next at Lamar on Tuesday and fell 90-82 in a high-scoring game that had pace. Texas State, in contrast, slowed the tempo and kept UTSA from scoring on many, if any, easy baskets.