SBS: Zombie Cats (Texas State) Invade Vegas
Editor’s note: This is the first part of a series chronicling the story behind the stories I feel are some of my best. Here is the tale of how “Bobcats down Denver” came about and earned me a first-place honor from the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors for Breaking Spot News (Sports). So, without any further ado…
“I’m not going to lie: I really like our chances against Denver tonight,” an assistant coach for the Texas State men’s basketball team told me inside the gym at The Orleans in Las Vegas. “We scouted them well and put together a great game plan.”
I replied as any degenerate (ergo; sportswriter would): “So you’re telling me I should go put down a money line bet on you guys as soon as I finish working out?”
“Now I didn’t say that,” he replied. “Don’t be getting me in trouble with the NCAA. All I know is that we might need to stay in Las Vegas for at least another night.”
One more night in Sin City? Who could argue with that? I mean, to the untrained eye, work in Las Vegas sounds awesome but when you’re covering a basketball tournament and trying to show your employer that you deserved that trip and trying to get some amazing career-changing clips, there is little time for play.
Two days earlier, the Bobcats — or “Zombie Cats,” as I and several other media members called them — advanced to the quarterfinals with an easy 68-56 win over Seattle University. Texas State never trailed the Redhawks and actually played a semblance of defense (uncommon at the time), earning the zombie moniker.
So all that stood between the Zombie Cats and a spot in the WAC Tournament semifinals — and a possibility of saving head coach Doug Davalos his job (spoiler alert, it didn’t) — was Denver. Texas State lost by 11 on the road the Pioneers, then were drilled by 15 at home despite a career-high effort by Joel Wright (33 points).
Wright stepped up again in the third meeting, as did his teammates. Behind 32 points by Wright, the Bobcats jumped ahead early and held off Denver en route to a 72-68 upset win. Texas State was the seventh seed, while the Pioneers were No. 2.
Near the end of the game, however, I heard several of the Bobcats chanting. I had an idea of what it was, but didn’t want to say for sure and be horribly, horribly wrong.
So I asked the head coach after the game. He smiled and said, “No comment.”
After the press conference, I pulled a student manager aside and he told me exactly what it was — “Change our flight. Change our flight. Change our flight.”
For some reason, the Bobcats were scheduled to fly back to San Marcos, Texas on Thursday night. Someone didn’t have faith that the Zombie Cats would make it to the semfinals. Well, they did and I’m quite glad, because it gave me a great clip.
Oh, and by the way, I made some money betting Texas State. I’m a stinker.