GAME NOTES: Two of the new additions to the Western Athletic Conference for this season get together at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Tuesday night, as the Seattle Redhawks collide with the Texas State Bobcats in the first round of the 30th annual league tournament.
The seventh-seeded Bobcats were previously members of the Southland Conference where they won a pair of tournament titles in 1994 and 1997, but they hadn't been back to the championship round in more than a decade. This year in the WAC, Texas State won a total of five games in 18 opportunities, the latest victory being celebrated this past Saturday at San Jose State by a convincing 90-67 final.
As for the Redhawks, they are back in the running for an NCAA Tournament invitation at the Division I level for the first time in more than three decades. However, the prospect of that happening for the 10th seed in this event doesn't appear to be all that promising since Seattle won a total of just three league bouts this season. The squad closed out the regular season with back-to-back defeats and eight in the last nine games overall.
Texas State won both meetings during the regular season, the first coming on the road in late January by a score of 86-83, followed a month later with another close call, 67-65, this time in San Marcos. As a result, TSU is now ahead in the all-time series by a count of 2-0.
The survivor this time around will remain in the tournament and will face second-seeded Denver in the quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon.
The Redhawks featured just one double-digit scorer on the season in Clarence Trent (10.0 ppg), but in conference play the Redhawks were devoid of such a performer, which is why they were putting up only 63.8 ppg against WAC foes. Trying to give the team some scoring punch was Chad Rasmussen with his 9.6 ppg, stemming from a team-best 65 3-pointers over the course of his 23 starts, but he shot a mere 36.9 percent from the floor overall. Deshaun Sunderhaus (9.3 ppg) had his moments as well as he stepped in as the top rebounder with better than six per game, but he fouled out in five contests and managed to hand out a mere 18 assists which is rather woeful for someone who was on the floor for more than 600 minutes this season.
Joel Wright (17.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and Matt Staff (11.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg) were the ones the Bobcats counted on the most this season, but as well as the former might be able to play, he limited his own time on the floor with consistent foul trouble and a total of nine games in which he picked up a fifth personal. Another knock on Wright is that he couldn't always seem to get a firm grasp on the ball and made some poor decisions when trying to get the ball to teammates. He tallied just 55 assists in 31 games, but turned the ball over a staggering 116 times and that was the key reason why TSU finished the regular season with more miscues (436) than assists (394). Handing the ball over to the competition so often made it easy for those teams to generate 76.1 ppg.
If nothing else, the good news for the Bobcats is that two of their league victories came against Seattle, so at the very least Texas State has the blueprint for how to win in the first round.
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