Sometimes it seems that point guard Japhet Medor was born to pass the basketball. Then again, the 6-foot senior from Flordia is far from one dimensional.
Sometimes he takes it upon himself to shoot.
Medor did just that in the frantic waning moments Thursday night, leading the UTSA Roadrunners past the Texas State Bobcats, 61-56.
UTSA’s spark plug of a playmaker scored seven of his team-high 16 points in the final 3:30 as the Roadrunners registered their biggest victory of the season.
Not only did they send their I-35 rivals home to San Marcos with a loss, they also knocked off a team that had won the last two Sun Belt Conference regular-season titles.
Savoring the victory for his teammates, Medor explained later that in crunch time of a frenzied game he makes decisions on whether to pass or shoot based on his view of the court.
“I just know where my players are going to be, at the time and moment,” he said. “At a time like that, I’m going fast, and they’re going with me, and it just makes it easier. Everybody gets to their spot. If I’ve got a little hole, I’ll try to sneak through the hole and hit a shot. If not, I’ll take the layup.”
Medor scored 16 in 27 minutes, hitting 5 of 7 from the field and 6 of 8 from the free throw line. He also had five rebounds and two assists.
With just under four minutes remaining, the Bobcats had seized a one-point lead on a three from guard Mason Harrell, the Bobcats’ leading scorer.
Medor didn’t flinch. First, he drove and drew a foul and made two free throws. Next, he euro-stepped his way to the rim to score a field goal and went to the line again. Medor connected to make it a four-point game.
As the clock ticked under 60 seconds, UTSA still had the lead by four but turned it over when DJ Richards was stripped in the backcourt. Harrell turned and scored on a layup. Texas State was within two.
But, by then, Medor had his rhythm. He sped into the defense again and drew a foul from Harrell, and then knocked down two free throws. That was it for the Bobcats, who had won on the road at Rhode Island last Saturday night.
UTSA coach Steve Henson said it was an important victory for his players.
“We needed to walk out of here feeling better,” he said. “Our guys have been good for so long. They’ve done everything we’ve asked of ’em (since June). Just practice the right way. We’ve had no distractions whatsoever …
“This one certainly feels really good. They’re excited. I think it’s something we can build on.”
UTSA didn’t play great but played just well enough to pull out a victory. The Roadrunners shot only 42.9 percent but held the Bobcats to 34.4. They turned it over 19 times, but they also won the rebounding battle, 40-33.
Guard John Buggs III enjoyed a solid night with 13 points and eight rebounds. He hit 3 of 5 from three-point distance, building on a streak in which he has knocked down 7 of 11 from distance over the past two games.
Jacob Germany scored 12 and Richards had nine off the bench. Aleu Aleu was big on the boards with nine rebounds in nearly 21 minutes.
Forward Tyrel Morgan scored 20 to match Harrell, a quick, 5-foot-9 playmaker. Morgan did his work inside, making 8 of 11 from the field. Harrell was 8 for 18, including 4 of 9 from three.
Texas State 2-2
Prairie View A&M at UTSA, Tuesday, 7 p.m.
For the first time this season, the Roadrunners played zone defense. They played it for most of the first half en route to a 31-27 lead against the Bobcats.
Falling back into the 2-3 zone on their home court at the Convocation Center, they held the Bobcats to 33.3 percent shooting from the field and 3 of 11 from three (for 27.3 percent).
UTSA used the ploy from the outset and jumped out to a 7-0 lead.
Behind Tyrel Morgan and his 13 points, the Bobcats rallied late in the half to regain the advantage. An alley-oop dunk by Morgan lifted Texas State into a 24-23 lead. The Bobcats made it 25-23 on a Morgan free throw with 3:54 left.
Undaunted, the Roadrunners rallied behind Germany and Buggs to lead by four at the break. Christian Tucker capped the run with a drive to the basket and two free throws with no time remaining. Both Germany and Buggs had 10 points apiece at the half.
The UTSA Roadrunners will host the Texas State Bobcats in men’s basketball. The game is set for 7 p.m. at the UTSA Convocation Center.
Both teams come in with 2-1 records, but the Bobcats might be the team to beat. Texas State won at Rhode Island of the Atlantic 10 conference in its last outing. Moreover, the Bobcats have won back-to-back Sun Belt Conference regular-season titles.
UTSA coach Steve Henson said the Bobcats have “similarities” to last year’s team, even though some of the the top players have moved on in their careers.
“There are similarities, for sure, because they’ve got a great system,” Henson said. “They’re very-well coached. You expect them to be really locked in defensively. Their habits are very good. They’re all on the same page.”
Texas State lost its opener at Washington State of the Pac-12. It followed with a victory at home over non-Division I Mid-America Christian. In Game 3, the Bobcats traveled again and came away with a 70-66 victory over Rhode Island.
Guard Brandon Davis led the way with 15 points on 7 of 9 shooting from the field. Guard Mason Harrell leads the Bobcats in scoring for the season, averaging 18 a game.
The Roadrunners have yet to hit on all cylinders. They downed Division III Trinity University 74-47 in their opener. Next, they lost 75-55 at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. On Monday night, they hosted Division II St. Mary’s of San Antonio and pulled out a 66-59 victory.
Offense has been a concern. UTSA is shooting 40 percent from the field and 25.6 percent from three-point territory.
“I think we have a great team,” UTSA guard Erik Czumbel said. “I think we have a lot of room to grow. Defensively. Rebounding. There are lot of areas we can work on. But I think we are taking the right steps.”