The Bearkats struggle to find their rhythm has continued into the latter run of the conference season,dropping an essential 58-59 loss in overtime against McNeese State, but easily handling Lamar University with an overwhelming 78-40 blowout.
Sam Houston State (13-5, 6-5 SLC) has teetered between fifth and sixth place in Southland rankings while attempting to recover from a set-back three game losing streak from late January.
Led by guards Paul Baxter and Demarcus Gatlin, SHSU faced trouble carrying first half momentum into the second half, finishing 0-3 in overtime this season.
Against McNeese State (9-12, 3-8 SLC), the Bearkats shot for 44 percent in the first half from the court but lapsed to 26 percent in the second half, sinking only seven of 27 shots after halftime. Eventually, time management and efficient shots from the Cowboys upset SHSUs 10-point lead in the second half, capping off a win in overtime capitalizing on free-throws (93 percent).
According to head Coach Jason Hooten, his squad remains consistent attacking the basket but has failed to remain aggressive late in the game.
Theres no difference from [Lamar] and [McNeese] when we did penetrate and we kicked it, thats what its all about, Hooten said. Thats what our teams all about; when we shoot the ball were pretty good and when we dont were going to have close games and some of them you win and some of them you dont.
The mens squad took a blow to their starting lineup Thursday night, losing team leader DeMarcus Gatlin off a failed alley-oop attempt; leaving Baxter to head the reigns and carry SHSU into the Southland Conference tournament.
Gatlin announced after the game that my knee cap is broke in half, minor setback for a major comeback, Thursday night on his Twitter feed.
Gatlin averaged 8 points per game shooting 41 percent inside the line and nabbing 91 rebounds before his season ending injury.
After Thursdays loss, Hooten and company returned to the court to roll over Lamar in a 38-point blowout Saturday; an outing the Bearkats havent been a part of since opening the season against Hardin-Simmons.
Three Bearkats, including Terrance Motley clenching his third double-double of the season, knocked down double digits in Saturdays matchup against the Cardinals.
Motleys performance ended a month long slump since his last 10 point game.
Ive been in a slump so I was trying to do whatever I can to help my team, Ive been in a slump since the last time we played Lamar, Motley said.
Baxter had a quiet game shooting only for three points but was compensated by Will Bonds three-point range with four clutch shots outside the arc that ignited a 17-point run to commence the second half.
Anytime we got a guy hot we try and give him the ball, guard Darius Gatson said. [Bond] was open, hes a great shooter.
With seven games remaining in conference, the Bearkats will look to narrow their focus on finishing out games and continue to put pressure on opponent defenses inside the paint.
I think a lot of those games it was maturity, Gatson commented on the three overtime losses. We would be up ten and let off the gas and wed have a team down, step on them when we have them down. We kind of took advantage of that opportunity and try to build on that 10 point lead [against Lamar.]
The Bearkats will travel to Oklahoma and Arkansas to square off against conference rivals Oral Roberts and Central Arkansas, Thursday and Saturday.