SAN MARCOS, Tex. — Instate battles in the regular season are always exciting.
When they take place in the post-season, and the stakes are much, much higher, they get taken to another level.
On Thursday night down in San Marcos, Texas, the CIT provided an all-Texas battle in the first round. The Lamar Cardinals, who were making their first appearance in the post-season since 2012, went on the road to take on the Texas State Bobcats, who fell in the Sun Belt tournament finale over the weekend.
While it’s not considered an instate rivalry by any means, having bragging rights over a team in your same state is never a bad thing.
On their home court, the Bobcats came out with a strong first half, setting the tone towards the end of the frame. An 11-1 run by the Bobcats gave them a nine-point lead, which would expand to a 12-point lead at the break.
The second half saw Lamar try to cut into the lead and get back into the game, but Texas State always had an answer for what the Cardinals threw at them.
Texas State kept their opponents at a safe distance, and punched their ticket to the Second Round of the CIT with a 70-60 win over Lamar.
After a slow start to the game, Lamar took a slim 18-17 lead with 6:59 to play in the opening half on a layup from Terrance Hubby. That would be the last time the Cardinals held a lead on the night, as Texas State responded with an 11-1 run to take back control.
Hubby scored a career-high 11 points off the bench to lead Lamar, and was the only Cardinal to hit double figures on the night.
Nedelijko Prijovic kicked off the run with a tip-in on a second chance opportunity and added a free throw after being fouled, and the Bobcats held a nine point lead when all was said and done, 28-19.
Kavin Gilder-Tilbury capped the run with a pair of free throws, and the Bobcats pushed their lead to 12 points before the break.
Four quick points in the first 38 seconds of the second half expanded the lead for Texas State to 16 points. Colton Weisbrod responded with a pair of free throws to get Lamar moving on offense in the final frame.
While Texas State maintained their lead, the Cardinals continued to try and chip away. A layup from Weisbrod at the 10:33 mark cut the deficit down to six points, at 46-40. No sooner than the Cardinals cut the lead down, Nijal Pearson hit back-to-back-to-back three pointers to push the lead back to 15 for the Bobcats.
Down the stretch, Lamar was unable to get back within single digits, and Texas State rolled to the 70-60 win.
Kavin Gilder-Tilbury recorded a double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds to help extend his collegiate career at least one more game. Nijal Pearson scored a game-high 18 points.
Colton Weisbrod recorded seven points and two rebounds in just 18 minutes of action. Josh Nzeakor chipped in with six points, all in the first half.
Despite the loss, the Lamar Cardinals (19-15) made an eight-win improvement from a season ago.
The Texas State Bobcats (21-13) will now play the waiting game to find out who they play in the next round of the CIT.
– T. Bennett