The Sam Houston State Bearkats ended the first half of Southland Conference play with two wins last week to improve their record to 8-2.
SHSU blew out Louisiana-Monroe 83-66 Thursday night at Johnson Coliseum in front of 3,775 Bearkat faithful. The Kats led from start to finish with the biggest lead reaching 17-points with 18 seconds left in the game.
Rodrick Winters got the crowd into the game early with an electrifying blocked shot at the start of the first half.
Indian’s guard Mark Keith broke away from the pack and attempted to lay one off the glass, but the ball didn’t make it that far. Winters hustle allowed him to slam the ball off the glass and prevent the easy bucket. The crowd erupted in approval and it seemed to get in the head of the Monroe players.
“Thursday night is usually our good crowd night, it’s a great atmosphere for college basketball,” head coach Bob Marlin said. “Rodrick had two monster blocks that really got the crowd off their feet.”
Donald Cole provided the spark the Kats needed on offense by scoring a game high 28-points and pulling down 14-rebounds. SHSU went in at the half only up by eight, but came out on fire in the second. Cole scored 20-points in the second half and Robert Shannon hit some big three point shots.
Shannon finished with a season high 11-assists and he also chipped in 18-points. On the defensive side of the ball, senior forward Jay Oliphant held ULM star forward Kirby Lemons below his season points average.
“Lemons still played pretty good, but a lot of that was late in the game,” Marlin said. “I thought Jay’s defense in that game was really good. He is starting to play his best basketball at the right time.”
Oliphant ended the game with 12-points and 11-rebounds. Mario Kinsey and Felton Freeman also turned in solid games for Sam.
The Bearkats continued to burn up the nets on Saturday with a 76-62 thumping of Northwestern State. The Kats opened up the game with back-to-back three pointers from Cole and Freeman. For the second straight game SHSU jumped out to an early lead and never looked back.
Cole was the game’s leading scorer with 19-points. His play over the last two games earned him “Southland Conference Player of the Week” honors.
Freshman Chris Jordan took advantage of touchy foul calling by scoring 12-points from the free throw line. Jordan went on to score 14-points before being victimized by the same calls that sent him to the line. Both teams combined for 59 fouls that resulted in 75 free throw opportunities.
Oliphant put together a nice run of his own by scoring eight straight points after he replaced Cole in the first half. Marcus Ebow and Eddy Fobbs pleased the crowd when they connected on a couple of alley-hoops.
The Kats got off to a slow start in the second half and let the Demons get back in the game. SHSU finally put NWS away when they went up by 18-points, thanks to a pair of Jordan free throws.
“This game was a lot like the Lamar game,” Marlin said. ” We held Lamar to 5-24 shooting in the first half and Northwestern to 5-25. We talked about it at half time. We wanted to come out and score some points to increase the lead, but that didn’t happen. What disappoints me is that in both games we had more turnovers than points in the second half.”
The Bearkats travel to Beaumont Thursday to take on the Lamar University Cardinals. The game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.