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Only once in a lifetime does a coach of Bobby Knight’s stature walk into Johnson Coliseum. On Wednesday the Bearkats sent him out a loser. Thanks in part to a game-high 18 points from Shamir McDaniel, which included five three-pointers, and some tough-gritty defense, the Bearkats pulled off a hard-earned 56-54 win in front of 4,842 rowdy fans.
“This was a good opportunity for us,” Sam Houston State head coach Bob Marlin said. “I appreciate coach’s (Knight) willingness to come here and play us. Our basketball team got better tonight by playing a very good team. We were very fortunate. I’m very proud of our guys. Offensively we have a ways to go, but I love our spirit.”
The Bearkats may have struggled shooting the ball and converting on the offensive end, but it was their defense that carried them on this night. The Red Raiders shot only 39 percent for the game and were out-rebounded 44-32. Martin Zeno, who drew the focus of the Kats’ defense throughout the night, struggled in the first half and finished with 16 points on 5-of-15 shooting. The effort was impressive enough to draw praise from one of the game’s best.
“We scheduled this game because we knew it would be a really tough game,” Texas Tech head coach Bobby Knight said. “We took an opportunity to play someone we knew was going to be good. When it really counted we got outplayed. Over the course of the game they did a really good job defensively. These kids deserved to win. We had a couple chances but we couldn’t get over the hump. Those kids played their ass off defensively”
The Red Raiders aided the Bearkats by connecting on only 15-of-28 free throws. “We missed a lot of free throws,” Knight said. “That was one of several problems that we had. That was really that only problem we had that wasn’t inflicted on us by the opposition.”
The game began with both teams struggling offensively. Texas Tech took their biggest lead of the night at the 9:22 mark in the first half on a jumper from Trevor Cook. However, the Kats closed the half strong and took the lead with a little over two minutes left on a jumper from James Barrett. Ryan Bright, who shot only 2-of-8 from the field, scored on back-to-back plays to extend the score to 25-20, one of which included a perfect back-door pass from John Gardiner.
In the second half the Bearkats held the lead all but for 17 seconds. McDaniel delivered when it counted most by scoring 15 of his 18 points in the half, including four three-pointers.
“We’re excited,” McDaniel said afterwards. “We came in here expecting to win. It was a team effort. We kept our composure. Everyone was able to contribute in some type of way.”
Marlin also credited McDaniel’s canny ability to make the big shot and help seal the victory for the Kats. “He’s an excellent shooter and he struggled last year,” Marlin said of the fifth year senior. “He hit a couple shots early in the second half. The one he hit in front of our bench was a huge, huge three.”
Junior transfer DeLuis Ramirez made a good first impression among Bearkat fans by scoring 10 points off the bench and making two critical layups in the final minute. It was McDaniel, though, that put the finishing touch on an amazing night when he converted a three-point opportunity with 43 seconds left in the game, giving the Kats a 56-51 lead.
The Bearkats will try and carry their two-game winning streak into next Tuesday’s game when they host Saint Gregory’s at 7 p.m.