San Antonio – A shaky start smoothed out for the Rattlers as they closed out the final day of the Thanksgiving Classic with a victory over Angelo State University on Saturday.
When one of their leading scorers hit the floor in apparent pain, St. Mary’s fans had their hearts in their throats as Daryell Taylor (Sr., Houston) required bench time because of injury. But a deep staff made them move on without skipping a beat, as the combined efforts of Isaiah Matthews (RS-So., Texas City, Texas), Moses Sundufu (Sr., Hopkins, Minn.) and Kevin Kotzur (RS-Sr., La Vernia, Texas) allowed St. Mary’s to break out of a close game at the half for a 84-76 win at Bill Greehey Arena.
The Rattlers (3-1), up one at the half, regained their footing in the second after the first saw a low 37-percent field-goal percentage, gaining a 10-point lead and improving from the floor to shoot 75 percent (21-28) in the second frame. Angelo State (2-2) stayed within reach, however, cutting the lead and tying the game before a spurt from Matthews, who scored 10 points in the last four minutes of the game to help St. Mary’s get past the Rams once more.
“I saw the end of the game was coming close,” said Matthews, who hit a season-high 16 points Saturday. “We had to take the lead and spread it and do what I had to do to help the team.”
Thirteen of Matthew’s 16 points occurred in the second half that backpacked along with a hot streak from Sundufu, who also scored 16. Kotzur pulled up big once more, hitting his fourth straight double-double with a team-high 24 points and 12 rebounds. His 24 points moved him into sixth place in the Rattlers’ record books with 1,533 points, moving past St. Mary’s Athletics Hall of Famer and former NBA veteran Robert Reid.
Fred Wilson (Jr., Seattle) also proved clutch when the time was right for the Rattlers, scoring all of his 10 points in the second half, including two three-pointers.
With one of their big shooters teetering with injury but still pulling up six points and two assists after returning, Taylor’s temporary absence allowed big step-ups from the bench and the starters.
“We have to do that all time,” says Matthews, who also tallied five rebounds as a starter against the Rams, “and do everything to get the job done.”
St. Mary’s Thanksgiving Classic hopes to prep the Rattlers for their first Heartland Conference game of the season against Texas A&M International University next Saturday at 4 p.m. in Bill Greehey Arena.
“We got to come out with the same positive attitude that we came out with in the second half this game,” said Matthews of the upcoming rival conference game. “We have to come out, hustle, take charges – the same things as tonight. It’s a repeated process and we can’t go away from that.”