San Antonio – With only seconds remaining and only one chance at the game-winner and one point away from victory, the sound of Lamb Autrey’s jumper hitting the front iron sealed the Rattlers’ first loss of the season, 77-76, to Missouri Western State on Saturday.
The second half was full of heat as the Rattlers and the Griffons played back and forth in controlling the lead that came down to the last three plays of the game.
With less than a minute on the clock and one point behind at 75-74, Ray Marshall (Sr., El Paso, Texas) came up strong after rebounding Daryell Taylor’s (Jr., Houston) missed jumper with a post move that had the cheers of a game-winner on a night in which St. Mary’s star Kevin Kotzur (Jr., La Vernia, Texas) led all scorers with 31 points.
But 20 seconds left on the board was enough time for the Griffons to answer back with a jumper of their own, pulling ahead 77-76 and leaving St. Mary’s nine seconds to stay undefeated. Autrey (Sr., Cibolo, Texas) handled his way down the court and pulled up for a jumper that was just shy of overcoming Missouri Western with three seconds left.
The loss to Missouri Western came down to the wire in the second half; a not-so-predictable ending judging by the end of the first. The Rattlers (2-1) came out of the huddle running, leading the Griffons 12-0 out of the gate. The Rattlers maintained their lead over Missouri Western, shooting a 54.5 field-goal percentage, until the last 45 seconds of the game.
While Autrey didn’t get the shot he wanted, his game against the Griffons didn’t miss his usual presence on court. The senior scored 12 points, pulled down six rebounds and led the team in assists with five. Autrey was among the three Rattlers who hit double digits Saturday, with Marshall adding a season-high of 13. Hitting a double-double for the second time in three games was leading scorer Kevin Kotzur with 31 points.
Kotzur manned the paint for St. Mary’s, hitting 13 of 15 shots from the floor and coming away with 14 rebounds and two assists. With success early in the season, Kotzur takes the loss against Missouri Western as a test to the Rattlers’ potential this year.
“The MI AA Conference, their conference (is good), so as a team this was a stepping stone,” Kotzur said. “This is kind of a measuring stick to what we have. I mean we played pretty well and then we had our errors at the end and that’s what happened.”
Kotzur’s 31 points on Saturday was three points short of his career high of 34 points in a single game, but the 6-foot-8 center always has the team’s success in his mind’s eye.
“I was just thinking about winning the game,” he said. “Personally, I would have rather won than lose and have this many points. I would have rather scored five and end up winning.”
Kotzur and the rest of the Rattlers take on their first road game of the season against Texas A&M-Kingsville this Monday in Kingsville, Texas at 7 p.m.