Going into the Southland Conference championship game, the Sam Houston State men’s basketball team appeared to have it all. A regular-season finale set in their home stadium. A crowd of 3,686 standing ready to support the home team with all of their vocal capacity. A nine-game conference win streak and a prior victory over the very opponents they were about to face.
Yet what ensued at Johnson Coliseum Saturday night was a far cry from what the circumstances predicted as the Bearkats handed the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders the 2007 Southland Conference Championship in an embarrassing 17-point loss on their home court.
The Kats lost ground from the tip off and continually struggled to regain it as the Islanders jumped ahead 6-2 within the first two minutes of the game.
Throughout the first half, both teams kept up a steady stream of baskets as the Kats trailed by no more than five points through the first seven minutes of the game. After failing to gain the lead despite consistent scoring, a sailing three-pointer from C.J. Hadley finally put Sam Houston St. ahead 21-17 with 11:09 left in the half.
Hadley finished the night with 4 rebounds and 8 points, including a 3-for-5 performance from the free throw line.
Yet the Bearkat defense proved too weak against the TAMU-CC offense as the Islanders went on to score seven unanswered points to regain a lead they would carry until the sound of the final buzzer.
TAMUCC entered a scoring frenzy near the end of the first half, forcing the Bearkats to enter the half trailing the Islanders 30-44.
In the second half, the shouts of the fans in orange weren’t enough to get the sparks flying as Sam Houston St. continued to get drilled by the Islanders on both sides of the ball.
Senior Aaron Wade scored the first points of the half on a layup to narrow the gap, yet the Islanders offense quickly answered as senior Chris Daniels dunked in two to put the Islanders up 46-34.
Things only grew worse from there as the Bearkats grew sloppy in the paint and the ball just couldn’t seem to fall in their favor.
Throughout the night, the Bearkats were only able to shoot 40 percent from the field while the Islanders went 33-for-55 for a 60 percent field goal percentage.
Despite going just 1-for-6 from the field, junior Ryan Bright managed to have the best defensive performance of the night with nine rebounds and a highlight-worthy block of what would have been a slam dunk for the Islanders that brought the entire coliseum to its feet.
Aaron Wade earned the high-point honors for the night as the senior forward sank 18 points for the Bearkats, including a perfect 4-for-4 performance from the free throw line.
Chris Daniels proved to be the Islanders most potent offensive weapon as the senior from Sam Houston High School in San Antonio brought in 20 points for the high-scoring honors of the night.
Both teams are set to compete in the Southland Conference Tournament this weekend at the M.O. Campbell Center in Aldine. The Bearkats, who earned the number two seed after falling to the Islanders, will face off against the Lamar Cardinals in the first game of the conference at noon on Thursday.
The Islanders, who earned the number one seed by defeating the Bearkats for the conference championship, are set to play the Southeastern Louisiana Lions Thursday night at 6 p.m.
Lamar finished the regular season in fourth place in the West Division of the SLC after closing out the season with an 83-64 victory over Southeastern Louisiana.