On a cold Saturday night, 350 fans showed up to see the Bearkats defeat the University of Texas at Arlington.
UTA, which is one year removed from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) national tournament, showed no signs of missing any members, other than a noticeably small team.
Sam Houston State began slow as the Mavericks went up 9-3 in the early minutes. The Kats’ man-to-man defense kept the game in range as the shots were not falling for them.
The biggest thorn in the Kats’ side was Mavericks’ guard Marquez Haynes, who led all scorers with 26 points.
But after a 10-2 run, the Bearkats found their offense.
“We had some good looks early in the game and just didn’t knock them in,” said SHSU head coach Bob Marlin. “But we got some steals and made our way back in.”
The hostile SHSU fans were relentless as they heckled the Mavs during time outs and free-throw shots.
The Bearkats took a 34-30 lead into halftime.
As the second half started, the Kats’ offense went cold. It took less than three minutes for UTA to capitalize and take the lead.
Throughout the second half, the Mavs deployed their full court press, which Sam Houston State repeatedly struggled with.
“Once we broke the press we got good spacing, and some good looks and hit some good shots,” Marlin said.
As the Kats’ three-point shooting seemingly disappeared, they kept looking for that big spark, which came in the form of shooting guard Ashton Mitchell, leading with the back dribble, then pulling up to hit a mid-range jump shot.
After that play, things clicked for the Kats. Every three-point shot seemed to fall and every call went their way.
The last six minutes were pure strategy. The Kats’ defense shut down the Mavericks and the SHSU offense was unstoppable.
The Kats continue conference play on the road at 7 p.m. this Wednesday against Lamar.
“They have four senior starters and some good guards,” Marlin said. “They have some talent like Kenny Dawkins their guard, and some of the coaches think he could be the best guard in our league.”