Four years of hard work, dedication and fight paid off on senior night for Sam Houston State men’s basketball.
Guards Jabari Peters, Marquel McKinney, DeMarcus Gatlin, Kaheem Ransom, Kyle McLeroy and center Michael Holyfield played their last home game Monday en route to a 76-49 win.
“I told myself a couple of weeks ago that I wasn’t going to get emotional because we got a lot of basketball left,” head coach Jason Hooten said. “I want these guys to play until someone says we can’t play anymore.”
The Bearkats defeated the Southland Conference last place Central Arkansas Bears after losing a close game to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Saturday. This win earns a bye into the semifinals of the Southland tournament.
“We came out and didn’t play that well in the first half,” Holyfield said. “But we came out in the second half to pull through.”
Slow starts and not attacking the basket for the Kats usually hurts, but going against the worst team in the conference, it was no trouble for SHSU to still pull out with the win.
It looked like the Kats would run away with a 15-point lead during the first half, but the Bears held in tight only being down by seven at halftime.
In the second half, the Kats ignited.
SHSU had more energy and played more aggressively in the second half to increase their lead, beginning the half on a 23-0 run. The Bears started to look out of sync, and the Bearkats surge was just too much to come back from.
The Bearkats shot well from the field, shooting 55 percent from the floor and going 9-for-20 from behind the arc.
SHSU had five players scoring in double digits with Ransom and junior guard Paul Baxter being the leading scorers with 12 points. Junior guard Dakarai Henderson and Holyfield both had 11 points while Gatlin contributed 10 for the night
The Bearkats distributed the ball as well as they shot it, finishing with 19 assists on the game. Ransom led all passers with five.
UCA’s regular season leading scorer freshman guard Jordan Howard was held to only 11 points as SHSU threw multiple defenses at him to disrupt his play.
The Kats add another conference win to their record and improve 14-2 in conference and 23-6 overall. SHSU now heads to Lamar before playing Stephen F. Austin State on Saturday. The last two games will determine if SHSU enters the SLC tournament at the No. 1 or 2 seed.
Tipoff for Thursday’s game in Beaumont is set for 7:30 p.m.