Wednesday night, the Southland Conference showdown pitted Sam Houston State against Lamar in a rematch of the double overtime thriller where SHSU won on a last ditch effort. However, the tides changed in Wednesday’s game.
Backed by a crowd that would even make the mighty dog pound of the Cleveland Browns jealous, SHSU came out to play, scoring just 20 seconds into the game when guard Ashton Mitchell hit a beautiful pull-up jump shot.
But the Bearkats struggled as the teams exchanged baskets. Lamar played the fast break offense that the Bearkats had become accustomed to this season.
For a stretch of five minutes the Bearkats had seven turnovers, but Preston Brown answered the prayer of the fans when he hit a short jump shot to stop the bleeding, and freshman guard Drae Murray added a three to cut the Cardinal lead to two.
Murray, who scored 20 points didn’t stop there, leading his team down the court like a general leading his troops into battle. Murray “oohed” and “ahhed” the crowd and continued to drop threes, becoming the biggest factor of the Bearkat offense in the first half.
“We didn’t come out and play any defense,” said Murray. “We talked about it but we didn’t come out with that fire.”
Trailing by three points with just two minutes to go, the Bearkat offense continued to rely on Murray as his three-point shooting was unstoppable, even hitting shots from NBA range.
But turnovers continued to plague the Kats’ as they trailed 29-26 at the half.
“Their best player Kenny Dawkins wasn’t even there,”said head coach Bob Marlin. “And we were 2-1 on turnovers.”
Coming out of the half, the teams exchanged fouls and air balls until Barkley Falkner blocked a shot, leading to a 7-0 run by the Bearkats.
But as fast as the offense hit their stride, they lost it until Murray re-entered the game, changing the pace rapidly.
On defense, the Cardinals’ best shooters were guarded by the quick guard who also fired up the offense with his consistent long rang shooting, giving the Bearkats’ the lead 42-41 with 11 minutes to go.
All momentum shifted towards the Kats as Murray’s steady offense, along with Faulkner’s aggressive defense, continued to give the Cardinals fits.
“About the second shot I was really feeling it,” Murray said. ” I was knocking them down. I just wish I would’ve knocked one down for the win.”
With a score of 52-53 with just five minutes remaining, the Bearkats hit two key free throws to take the lead.
But turnovers continued to kill the Bearkats as the Cardinals made key shots and the Kats simply lost control.
The key point in the game came with just 22 seconds remaining when Murray grabbed a rebound and called for a time out. However, the officials didn’t see it and called him for traveling.
After the Cardinals’ missed free throw, the Kats took the ball down the court. Allmond shot a three but was fouled, and went to the line to shoot three free throws. After missing his first, he made his second, but missed his last.
The Cardinals instantly grabbed the rebound and were fouled. After making the two free throws the game was sealed. In a last ditch effort, the Kats heaved the ball down court, but once again lost it in a turnover, losing the game 60-57.
“For the third game in a row the team that deserved to win won,” said Marlin. “They played harder than we did and took it to us.”
The Bearkats next game is Saturday, February 21 against University of Texas-San Antonio at Johnson Coliseum at 7p.m.