Justin Alexander scores a basket in StMU's win. (Photo by Antonio Morano Photography)
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SAN ANTONIO — Five technicals later, the Rattlers closed out a gritty but sizable win over Oklahoma Panhandle State University Saturday in their eighth straight victory.
Based on the intensity, it felt like a close game. Though the first half was tighter than comfort, the Rattlers toppled the Aggies by 20 points when it was all said and done, winning 83-63 at Bill Greehey Arena.
Kevin Kotzur (RS-Sr., La Vernia, Texas) settled into his usual stance at the top, leading the night with 25 points and 11 rebounds for his eighth double-double on the season. Daryell Taylor (Sr., Houston) knocked down 12 points while Moses Sundufu (Sr., Hopkins, Minn.) nearly joined Kotzur in the double-double arena with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Kotzur’s 11 rebounds moved him past Hall of Famer Robert Reid into third place in the Rattlers’ all-time annals with 834 for his career.
Although the Rattlers (10-1, 3-0 in conference) were able to hedge over the Aggies (4-10, 0-3 in conference) quickly in the first, Oklahoma Panhandle State remained close, tying the score several times and never allowing the Rattlers to sit too easily. Up by 10 with four minutes to go, Bryce Smith (RS-Fr., Corpus Christi, Texas) decided to turn on his game.
Logging 15 minutes of play on the season prior to Saturday, Smith’s six minutes of play against the Aggies made the difference in St. Mary’s going to the half confidently as the reserve point tallied eight points in two minutes, hitting two 3-pointers. The 100 percent shooter for the night helped the Rattlers jump to a 21-point lead at the half, 48-27.
Things got messy in the second. Two double-technical fouls and a flagrant foul on the Aggies would seem to jolt the Rattlers’ style, but St. Mary’s kept steady to hold their 20-point lead.
“It’s going to happen during the season, we’re going to face a lot of adversity,” said starting point guard Christian Bower (Jr., Chandler, Ariz.). “No matter where it is, no matter the team we play, we’re going to face adversity and it’s all about how we react to it. If we react poorly then we’re opening up the doors for the other team to come back so we have to react positively and keep our heads up.”
The Aggies were clearly denied any entrance back into gaining ground toward a victory as the Rattlers continued to move forward despite picking up two technicals of their own. Spoken clearly and confidently of the game and having a handle on controlling his team, Bower has added much to the Rattlers this season. Averaging more than four assists per game and adding another four Saturday, Bower has become the Rattlers’ top pickup.
“I’m extremely comfortable with this team,” said Bower, who also brought in seven points and five rebounds against the Aggies. “A lot of it has to do with the returners and the people that have been here before. They’ve helped me out a lot, showed me the ropes and showed me the way things are supposed to go. Coach Z (Zeleznak) and Coach (Bubba) Meyer have been in my ear the whole time, just explaining to me how they want the offense run.”
Clearly the Rattlers’ offense has been effective so far this season, backed by Bower’s smooth transition into St. Mary’s game play, as they hold the second-best overall record in conference and hope to look at a national ranking at the next release following their two wins this week.
The Rattlers will go for their ninth straight in their first road conference game against the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith Thursday in Fort Smith, Ark. at 7:30 p.m.
St. Mary’s University, as a Catholic Marianist University, fosters the formation of people in faith and educates leaders for the common good through community service, integrated liberal arts and professional education, and academic excellence. The University has six athletic national titles: men’s basketball (1989–NAIA), baseball (2001–NCAA Div. II), softball (1986–NAIA and 2002–NCAA Div. II) and an individual national champion in men’s golf (2006–NCAA Div. II) and a national academic championship in men’s golf (2009–NCAA Div. II). St. Mary’s also had more than 40 percent of its athletes named to conference, regional and/or national honor rolls this past year. St. Mary’s student–athletes graduation rate is 65 percent, higher than the NCAA Division II average of 55 percent. To learn more about St. Mary's, visit www.stmarytx.edu/athletics.