It took a total team effort, but in the end the Roadrunners finally found themselves on the right side of the scoreboard as they held off a Texas State Bobcat charge to win 88-84 before an electrified Convocation Center.
In reality, it should not have been close as UTSA found the bottom of the net early and often, and Texas State found nothing. The Roadrunners held an early 13-1 advantage and until the 12:54 mark of the first half, Texas State could only make free throws.
When the Bobcats found their shot, they found it in the form of junior guard Eddie Rios, who hit two threes to cut the Roadrunners lead down to 21-9 with 12:13 left in the first half.
The Roadrunners responded to Rios by building the lead back up to 15 at 28-13. The Bobcats cut it down to fourteen after a J.B. Conley free throw, but once again the Roadrunners had an answer as Melvin Johnson tickled the twine from beyond the arc to put the Roadrunners ahead 31-14 with seven minutes remaining in the first half.
The Bobcats would put together a 12-5 run to close out the half but that only cut the Roadrunner’s lead to ten. The buzzer sounded on the first half with the Roadrunners holding a 36-26 lead over the Bobcats.
Due to a technical foul on the Bobcats Head Coach Doug Davalos at the end of the first half, the Roadrunners would open the second half at the free throw line and thanks to a pair of Melvin Johnson free throws, the Roadrunners came out of the half up 12, 48-36.
The early part of the second half looked much like the early part of the first, as the Roadrunners spent the better part of ten minutes building a lead that seemed to put the game away. Like the first half, the lead grew to 17 points when freshman forward Jeromie Hill converted on a layup to give the Roadrunners a 67-50 lead with 13:38 remaining.
Then the youth of the Roadrunners began to show, as the Bobcats cut the lead in half over three minutes. Momentum shifted to the Bobcats and the lead continued to shrink over the middle of the second half.
“We got too comfortable with the lead,” freshman forward Tyler Wood said. “The game is 40 minutes, we are good at playing 30, we just need to play the full 40.”
The Roadrunners were caught off guard as the Bobcats looked as though they would come into San Antonio and steal one away. The Bobcats finally took the lead at the 1:41 mark of the second half when senior forward Cameron Johnson hit the second of his two free throws to put the Bobcats up 84-83.
The Roadrunners responded with the game on the line and used four free throws from senior guard Devin Gibson and junior guard Sei Paye to survive the Bobcats and more importantly move into a tie with UT-Arlington for first place in the Southland Conference West division at 3-2.
“Down the stretch the guys made winning plays,” Gibson said. “That was something we didn’t do during the long streak.”
The Roadrunners entered the game at 8-8 (2-2 Southland) on the season. Texas State entered 7-10 (2-1). For the Roadrunners it was a must win as they had lost three consecutive games in a row at home.
“The win is all that matters. As far as letting them come back we have to fix that,” Gibson said. “For the most part we made the plays to win.”
The Roadrunners had four players score in double figures led by sophomore guard Melvin Johnson III’s 21 points and 10 rebounds. The other players in double figures were freshman forward Jeromie Hill with 17 and Gibson and Wood pitched in 15 a piece to help the Roadrunners pull out the rivalry shootout.
The last few minutes of the second half almost put a damper on a game in which Johnson put in a double-double and Wood came off the bench to hit three three-pointers in the span of about 90 seconds of play.
“I think it is a problem that is getting fixed,” Thompson said. “You have to give our guys credit. They staved off their runs. Our guys are starting to make plays down the stretch.”
The young Roadrunners found themselves in a dogfight over the final few minutes of the second half, but Thompson knew what to expect from the Bobcats.
“We knew if we had a lead they would keep coming,” Thompson said. “This game means so much to both schools.