San Antonio – With the memories of their explosive overtime victory Monday due to sharp shooting still fresh in mind, the Rattlers were unable to capitalize as successfully Thursday against Texas A&M International.
And like Monday’s game, when St. Mary’s staged a late comeback like few had seen, another first came in Greehey Arena on Thursday: a conference loss at home, 71-63.
“We don’t need to do anything different,” said senior Lamb Autrey. “We just need to play harder.”
Autrey talks of the next time St. Mary’s (12-6, 5-2 in conference) will face Texas A&M International (15-4, 5-1 in conference) in the coming weeks, as it was unable to avenge the Dustdevils’ last appearance in Greehey Arena in which they won the Heartland Conference Tournament Championship last season. While the defending champions overtook the Rattlers at home, 71-63, it was not until the last three minutes of the game that they broke free.
Autrey (Sr., Cibolo, Texas) had an explosion of his own Thursday. The 6-foot-3 guard earned a double-double, leading his team with 16 points, 12 of which came in the second half, and pulling down 10 rebounds while playing the full 40 minutes. Moses Sundufu (Jr., Hopkins, Minn.) squared up for 14 points, including sinking two 3’s, and Kevin Kotzur (Jr., La Vernia, Texas) manned the paint for his own double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds.
RE-WATCH THE GAME
The Rattlers came out on the court strong, battling the Dustdevils throughout the first half. They were able to maintain the lead until the last 11 seconds, when Dustdevil Scottie Payne sank a three that would give them the momentum they needed, ending the half up 26-25.
But Payne’s clutch 3-pointer wasn’t the Rattlers’ last sight of him. Payne led the Dustdevils with 26 points, 19 coming from the second half that included another 3 and 12 free throws. St. Mary’s and Texas A&M International played a back-and-forth second half, with six ties and two lead changes.
It wasn’t until three minutes remained, with the score deadlocked at 56-56, that the Dustdevils broke away with Payne hitting seven straight free throws and with his teammates lighting up the floor for a final score of 71-63.
“We expected them to be a tough team,” says Sundufu, who went 6 of 11 from the floor. “We just had a few mental letdowns.”
The Rattlers’ shooting percentage – 2 of 10 from beyond the arc – came in stark contrast to Monday, when they finished the game by making five of their final six 3-point attempts, including four straight in regulation, to stage a remarkable comeback after trailing by 10 with two minutes left.
After Thursday’s game, the Rattlers take the No. 3 seed in conference behind the now second-ranked Dustdevils and undefeated Newman in first.
“What happens on the practice court is going to lead into a game,” says Autrey, who hit 6 of 7 free throws. “Every day, (we) gotta work hard in practice. That’s what it all starts with.”
The Rattlers are preparing themselves for the second half of conference and gearing up for the intensity that lies ahead.
St. Mary’s plays its last game of the first half of conference against the University of Texas- Permian Basin next Thurs., Feb. 2, at Bill Greehey Arena at 7:30 p.m.