Women's basketball faces familiar matchup in first round of tournament

Sports Reporter

Texas State’s first-round matchup on Wednesday against UT-Arlington is a matter of survival for Coach Zenarae Antoine.

The Bobcats defeated UT-Arlington by a combined 15 points in two meetings this season.

“It’s very realistic that we can make a run if we put our best foot forward,” Antoine said. “The team understands that. What it comes down to is what team is going to show: the toughness and the grit. That’s why they call it March Madness.”

The results of the earlier two matchups, Antoine said, are now just a “sidebar.”

The Sun Belt Conference tournament represents a clean slate for the Bobcats, who concluded the regular season with losses to Appalachian State and Louisiana-Monroe.

UT-Arlington Coach Krista Gerlich said the team is ready to play Texas State after being caught off guard by the Bobcats’ urgency late in the second meeting.

Texas State erased a nine-point deficit with 2:15 remaining in the second half. Taeler Deer, freshman guard, sent the game into overtime with a 3-pointer.

 Overtime belonged to the Bobcats, who outscored the Mavericks by seven points in the period.

“I think it’s an exciting matchup,” Gerlich said. “I think it’s gonna be a great game.”

Antoine said the two wins give the Bobcats confidence.

The teams have played each other every year dating back to when both were in the Southland Conference. The schools transitioned to the Western Athletic Conference together before relocating to the Sun Belt in 2013.

“I think it gives the team confidence because there is some familiarity,” Antoine said. “The opposite is also true. It also gives UTA the same type of confidence. The familiarity is basically a wash. All things aside, both teams are going to play their hardest to have an opportunity to advance.”

Antoine said March is the time for upsets—for underdogs to step up and put their best foot forward.

Texas State must win three consecutive games to secure an automatic berth in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

“They are embracing it,” Antoine said. “That’s what you want. You want your team to embrace it, not to cower. You don’t want to win them by default. Right now I have a lot of confidence in my team in that regard.”

UT-Arlington’s 53.2 opponent points per game ranks second in the Sun Belt. The Mavericks rank first with a 36.1 opponent field goal percentage.

The Mavericks are led by Rebekah Van Dijk, freshman center, who averages a double-double this season with 13.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.

Van Dijk had 13 points and 16 rebounds in the last matchup against the Bobcats.

Antoine emphasizes effort in preparation for the game.

“I’ve said this a million times,” Antoine said. “People have probably got tired of me saying it, but I’ve been about it for the entire time, and that’s what we need to continue to do.”

Texas State would play the winner of the Arkansas-Little Rock and Georgia State game in the semifinal round.

“Of course the goal is always (to) try to make a run,” Antoine said. “The team is really excited about the opportunity this year. These young women clearly understand that they can get it done. It all comes back to consistency. The talent is there.”

Follow Paul Livengood on Twitter @IamLivengood