The Bearkats came into American Bank center Saturday night looking to do what no other team in the Southland Conference has been able to accomplish this season; defeat Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
In their previous seven conference match-ups, the Islanders have outscored their opponents by an average of 19 points per game. Sam Houston State University would need a full team effort and they got it coming away with one of their most offensively productive games this season with a shooting percentage of 54.7 percent in the 84-79 victory over the Islanders.
This highly anticipated divisional game featured two of the top programs in the conference. It was not just the play of one person that made the difference, but the whole team. Four players consisting of Aaron Wade, Ryan Bright, Jejuan Plair and C.J. Hadley, finished the night in double figures.
Chris Daniels, a seven-footer who was a key to the success of the Islanders’ 46-40 halftime lead, was a non-factor in the second half as the Bearkats were able to create some space between Daniels and the rim.
“On the big man, we pushed him up a little bit more, which allowed us to get more stops underneath the basket,” Bright said.
Making Daniels ineffective for the Islanders’ offense paved the way for the Kats to have success in other aspects of the game. This stifling defense prevented Corpus Christi from shooting the ball effectively and they were only able to muster a 28.1 shooting percentage in the second half. The Kats also limited the Islanders to only four second-chance points in the second half.
“We just had better execution. We got off to a good start and we just told the guys to grind,” Sam Houston State head coach Bob Marlin said.
The Bearkats’ guards were also able to get more pressure on the Islanders’ backcourt, forcing 10-second half steals. Turnovers played a key role second half towards the success of the Bearkats. Sam Houston took advantage of the Islanders’ converting 13 turnovers into 16 points.
With the win, the Bearkats stopped the Islander’s 10-game winning streak and string of 11 home-game victories dating back to last season.
“Out here on the road, we knew it was going to be tough. We needed to play good ball. It’s a big win for us,” Plair said.
Sam Houston State has now positioned itself in a second place tie in the SLC with Northwestern State. The Kats face Northwestern State this Thursday in Natchitoches in a rematch of last year’s conference tournament championship game.