At the top of their game

After losing two of their first four conference games, the Sam Houston State men’s basketball team took control of their destiny within the conference and the SLC-West lead with a 73-56 victory over the University of Texas at Arlington Mavericks on Wednesday night at Johnson Coliseum.The game, televised live on Fox Sports Southwest, gave the Bearkats (16-3, 4-2 SLC) sole possession of first place in the West Division over the Mavericks (14-5, 4-3 SLC) and helped keep the Mavericks winless at Johnson Coliseum since 1999, including a 92-78 Bearkat victory last year.After trailing by at least ten early in the game, the Bearkats pulled away with the win for their second consecutive conference victory.”They [UTA] were the divisional leaders, won four in a row and we knew coming in it’s always a tough game with them,” Bearkat forward Ryan Bright said. “They are big and play hard, and it’s always a battle and that proved true tonight. It was big for us to get a win today like it always is, but it builds a little momentum over a good team like them.”Bright, the conference leader in rebounds, once again led the team in rebounds, with 17 and his 14 points notched double-double performance. As a team, the Bearkats out-rebounded the Mavericks 50-35, including 18 offensive rebounds.”It’s one of the things we need to do win and fortunately we did it tonight,” Bright said. “Rebounding is big for this team.””They kicked our butts on the boards,” Mavericks head coach Scott Cross said.Shamir McDaniel led the team in scoring with 18 points on 4-of-9 shooting, including a pair of three-pointers, but the Bearkats also received strong output from their bench, including guards Reggie Rawlins with 16 points and Jeremy Thomas with 11.With the game tied at five, the Mavericks went on a 10-0 run, and grew their lead to as much as 11 with 11 minutes to go in the first half. Following a timeout, the Berakats regained the lead on a 13-0 led in part by Rawlins, who had six points in that span, including one of his three dunks. Thanks in part to two late Mavericks turnovers, the Bearkats went into the half leading 3-27, aided by a 28-10 run over the final 11 minutes of the half.”Our bench had a great game tonight, everyone came in and did something,” Thomas said. “Barkley Falkner played well, Reggie Rawlings played well; up and down the line, they gave something good. Our coaches really stressed ‘do our part,’ and I think everyone came in and did that. I think that was the key tonight.”As Rawlins helped energize the Bearkats in the first half, Thomas provided the scoring spark from the bench in the second, scoring eight, though it came with a price – one of his teeth. Thomas’ injury came towards the end of the second half, while going after a loose ball with Mavericks defender, Rod Epps.”It just broke when I hit. Epps made a good play on the ball and it just happened. Yeah, I still got it,” Thomas said as he held the tooth in a cup.The Mavericks leading scorer going into the game, Jermaine Griffin, registered two fouls within the game’s first minute, and sat the remaining 19 minutes on the bench. He was held scoreless for much of the game, before scoring his first points with a pair of free throws with four minutes to go to cut the deficit to five. Yet that would be the closest the Mavericks would get the remainder of the game. The Mavericks’ potent offense was stalled by the Kats defense, held to 32% shooting on the night.”I thought we did a good job,” SHSU head coach Bob Marlin said. “We talked about that after the game, that they didn’t make a three in the second half; that’s important. We had to stay close to their shooters, contest their shots and make them work.” With the cameras still rolling, Rawlins ended the night with his own personal a mini dunk contest, a pair of jams, including the game’s final basket, a one-handed highlight reel dunk.

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