LAS VEGAS — It’s no secret teams want to be playing their best come tournament time.
Judging how Texas State wrapped up the regular season last Saturday, Zenarae Antoine’s team must feel like contenders — even though it’s the bottom seed in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament.
When the Bobcats took the court three days ago against San Jose State, they had a lot to prove. Texas State had lost five consecutive games, including a brutal 73-56 loss to Utah State last Thursday in which it shot 27.7 percent from the field.
Behind an all-around performance by senior guard Diamond Ford, the Bobcats crushed the Spartans. Ford filled the stat sheet (25 points, seven steals, six assists, four rebounds) as Texas State scored a season-high 100 points in the 33-point win.
Unlike the loss to the Aggies, the Bobcats helped Ford against SJSU. Texas State put three other players in double figures and junior forward Ashley Ezeh had one of her best games to date since she returned three weeks ago from a knee injury that kept her on the bench.
“Everybody put up points. Everybody was shooting. Our offense was going so well,” said Ezeh, who scored 23 points and grabbed six rebounds last Saturday. “We have to continue that streak and go into the WAC Tournament shooting well. If you’re playing good, your defense plays good and if it all comes together, I feel like we’re going to do big.”
Nothing will be handed to the Bobcats, however, as they have quite the trek ahead of themselves.
Texas State opens tournament play Tuesday afternoon against the No. 7 Denver, a team that swept the season series from Antoine’s bunch. Should the Bobcats upend the Pioneers, they’ll face Utah State in the quarterfinals.
“They’re (Denver) is really good at their own ball movement and sharing the ball,” Antoine said. “We can’t just play solid defense for 20 or 25 seconds, but coming up with the basketball, boxing out and allowing them only to be one-and-done and then push it down the other end.”
Texas State didn’t get many fast-break opportunities last Saturday since the Spartans dropped back in a zone to prevent easy baskets. What SJSU couldn’t stop, however, were the Bobcats from moving the ball around and racking up 19 assists.
“A big part of what we did was showing them film of, ‘This is how you score when you share the ball and this is what happens,’” Antoine said. “Kudos to the team for understanding that and once they did it, they started to feel good and the game came together on the offensive side.”
Texas State — and Ford, for that matter — must find a stride early against Denver. In their two meetings during the regular season, the Bobcats only averaged 66 points, with Ford contributing 23.5 of those.
If Ford comes through again for Texas State, win or lose, she’ll break Carlotta
Fisbeck’s single-season scoring record. Ford needs 17 points to take the title from Fisbeck — and in turn, grab hold of second place in career scoring behind Linda Muelker.