March 10, 2012
WICHITA FALLS, Texas – Fifteen minutes had already passed Saturday, and little had been said inside the St. Mary’s locker room following its 62-54 defeat to Midwestern State.
“I haven’t heard a word yet,” center Kevin Kotzur said.
There wasn’t much that needed to be said.
Despite a spirited effort that saw No. 8 seed St. Mary’s (19-9) jump out to a fast start in the South Central Regional, the top-seeded Mustangs (27-3) held court before a sold-out home crowd of 4,315 at D.L. Ligon Coliseum.
One of four Mustangs to score in double figures, David Terrell had 15 points and 11 rebounds to help Midwestern State improve to 15-0 at home this season and advance in the tournament.
Kotzur (Jr., La Vernia, Texas) led St. Mary’s with 17 points and six boards, while seniors Lamb Autrey (Sr., Cibolo, Texas and Ray Marshall (Sr., El Paso, Texas) had 14 and 10 points, respectively, in their final outings as Rattlers.
The fact the Rattlers believed they let one get away was what had them so speechless in the locker room afterward.
St. Mary’s, the Heartland Conference postseason champion, started the game by hitting 5 of its first 6 shots in opening up a 10-8 lead. But it struggled to regain that kind of rhythm thereafter, paving the way for the Mustangs to hold a 30-23 advantage at the break and lead by as many as 11 in the second half.
“We came out early and we knew we could hang with them,” said Kotzur, the Rattlers’ leading scorer at 17.9 points per game. “Then we started getting out of our offense and turning the ball over. We just couldn’t come back tonight.”
St. Mary’s had 12 turnovers by halftime, was outrebounded 37-21 and couldn’t buy a basket from outside, finishing 1 for 8 from 3-point range in the game. It wasn’t until D.J. Castro (Jr., El Paso, Texas) hit from long range midway through the second half that the Rattlers had a 3-pointer.
Not making things any easier was the fact they got in foul trouble early, as three starters had three fouls with 10 minutes left, with Marshall eventually fouling out with nearly five minutes remaining.
Yet there the Rattlers were, down five with 40 seconds left with a chance to pull off the upset. It made the loss that much tougher to stomach in the end.
“We played hard,” Autrey said. “But a few letdowns from our side; that was the difference.”