Hoops Report: 12.30.13

With non-conference play coming to an end tonight, the Bobcats are more than a 1/3 of the way through the slate and we take a look at how things have played out so far with conference play ahead.

On the brink of starting conference play Thursday, the 'Cats are 4-8 with a chance to add win number five or loss number nine, Monday night against Long Island. At times Texas State has shown flashes of promise on both sides of the ball, but there is still plenty of work to be done.

A couple of high points for the Bobcats is advancing to the Championship of the UCD Classic and the emergence of two new faces, Emani Gant (So.) and Kavin Tilbury (Fr.).

Players are still learning the defensive ways and mindset of being a hard nosed defensive team. It's a complete flip flop from the previous regime and has shown to have it's ups and downs. Leading scorer and returning senior Joel Wright (14.8 ppg) is set to return from a 2 game suspension to help bolster the Bobcats offense that is scoring 64 points a game on the season. He too has had his challenges with the new philosophy as he served his suspension because of a "practice issue."

Against the higher profile programs, Texas, SMU, Houston and Utah, the 'Cats were out-manned at times and simply didn't have the horses in play to go the distance with these types of programs yet. Here's where some of the flashes were evident: Texas State was within 2 points (72-70) late against a super talented Houston team before Daniel House would nail a 3-pointer to ice the game for the Cougs (76-70).

When they traveled up I-35 to the Erwin Center, the Bobcats were back and forth with Texas, who at this point looks like an NCAA tournament team, trailing by 3 (25-22) with only two minutes and change to go in the first half. UT would close on an 8-0 run and would come out like gangbusters in the second half to bury the 'Cats. The 'Horns were bigger and simply more talented which was evident as the contest went on.

The point, the Bobcats are showing signs of life under first year Head Coach Danny Kaspar. With only two weeks to recruit after he was hired in April, he's found two early gems in sophomore juco transfer Emani Gant and true freshman Kavin Tilbury. Gant is averaging 10 and 6 in a starting role, while Tilbury has provided a spark off the bench and is averaging 8 points a contest. The freshman leads the team in 3-pointers made and attempted, shooting just under 40% from deep (15 of 39).

With a record of 4-8, it hasn't all been rainbows and sunshine. Losses to schools of lesser conferences, SFA, South Dakota, and Oral Roberts have stirred the talk at the water coolers on how could this team lose to lesser known programs. It's not rocket science, on those nights, the other teams did what they had to in order to win. South Dakota and SFA clamped down on the 'Cats. Frigid shooting or not, you have to credit opposing defenses for having a hand in the offense going AWOL in both contests.

Against ORU, the Golden Eagles were on fire in the 2nd half and exploded for 52 points. They shot 68% from the field and drained 7 3-pointers to pull away from Texas State. So it's been a little of everything, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Now, it's time for conference play. Things tighten up more, elbows start flying sharply and banging down low is game in game out. The top 8 teams in the Sun Belt will advance to the Conference Championship in New Orleans come March. With a team of so many new faces, a new Head Coach, and a new philosophy, getting there would be a reward in itself.

Gaining some momentum heading into SBC play would be a plus and a victory against LIU wouldn't hurt. Tip is set for 7 p.m., Monday night from Strahan.

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