Texas State junior forward Joel Wright paused for a few moments after Saturday afternoon’s game to look at the scoreboard. As the rest of his teammates began their trek back to the locker room, Wright hung back.
Wright, visibly exhausted following the Bobcats’ 79-64 loss to the University of Denver, wanted to take it all in. He probably would have stayed out there longer if Texas State Director of Basketball Operations John Rybak didn’t coerce him into the tunnel.
Truth be told, Wright had every right to check out his hard work. Wright played his heart out, compiling 33 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and two steals.
All of those points went for naught, as none of the Bobcats backed Wright. Ten other players for Texas State combined for two fewer points (31) and eight fewer trips to the free-throw line (10) than the Jamaica native.
“He had a tremendous game,” Bobcat head coach Doug Davalos said. “At the end of the day, he didn’t get very much help at all.
“He fought in there the whole game. We had to ride him. He was a tough mismatch. He was the only guy that handled their physicality down low and fought fire with fire. Joel had a great game, but he would have had to have 80 tonight — and he wasn’t going to have 80.”
Wright, who came off the bench for the fifth consecutive game, settled into a groove early. Texas State (7-16, 3-8 Western Athletic Conference) needed a calming force, as none of its other players looked at ease.
Upon his insertion with 17:08 remaining in the first half, Wright attacked the basket. Wright scored six of his first eight points at the free-throw line and threw down a monster put-back dunk off a miss by sophomore forward Basil Brown with 43 seconds left until halftime.
Even as Wright continued to impose his will on the Pioneers, none of the Bobcats helped carry the burden. Texas State had five players — other than Wright — see 20 or more minutes, but combined to shoot 8-of-20 for the game and get to the free-throw line just twice in the second half.
“Everybody got an opportunity tonight,” Davalos said. “There are lot of guys that didn’t do anything.”
Denver (13-8, 9-2 WAC) countered Wright’s great individual performance with a solid team effort. The Pioneers shot 55.3 percent from the field, 46.7 percent from behind the arc and had four players in double figures as they handed the Bobcats their sixth consecutive home loss.