The Bearkats got locked into a shootout with the University of St. Thomas Celts last night. Ultimately, SHSU came out on top with a score of 114-92.
They got off to a sluggish start, getting down 25-14 halfway through the first. With five new starters on the court, playing their first game in front of a home crowd of 1,402 was exciting and nerve-racking. All their hard work was about to shine.
The ‘Kats bounced back, and managed to fight their way to a 48-46 lead at the half, being led by junior center Aurimas Majauskas with 13 points, five rebounds and two assists.
Whatever head coach Jason Hooten said at half time must have worked wonders on the team, since they came out at half time and jumped all over the Celts, extending the lead to 18 at a few moments.
The Bearkat defense came up huge, stifling the UST offense for a large stretch in the second half. At one point, the Celts were zero for six, and two for their last 10 shots from the field.
UST was unable to claw their way back from the 18 point deficit, and fell short.
The biggest problem the Bearkats had was their defense, with both Dakari Henderson, Aurimas Majauskas, and Coach Jason Hooten all heavily discussing defense in their post-game interviews.
“We need better defense,” Majauskas said. “It’s not good to give up 92 points.”
“We didn’t play great defense,” Henderson said. “We didn’t take them seriously at first, and let them score a lot. We can’t get away with that defense. We have to try harder.”
“We need to improve,” Hooten said. “We are a champion caliber team, and we need to play championship caliber defense. It will be hard to win another game this season if play defense like we did tonight.”
The Bearkats are going to have to make that adjustment quickly, because a very good offense is coming to town on Saturday in the undefeated Southern Illinois Salukis.
The Salukis have a very good one-two punch of Anthony Beane on the outside and Bola Olaniyan on the inside. Through two games, the pair has combined for 51 points, 32 rebounds, six assists, and six steals.
A really important thing for the Bearkats is to stay out of foul trouble. They had 31 fouls tonight, and Torry Butler got his fourth foul with 16 minutes left in the game.
“The NCAA changed the rules,” Hooten said. “They want to limit contact, so now every hand check and bump is a foul. Our guys just have to get used to the new rules. Hopefully that happens sooner rather than later.”
“Free throws are free points,” Majauskas said. “We have to make those, and it puts us at a good position to win the game.”
An example of these new rules happened tonight, as both teams combined to attempt 104 free throws. The Bearkats broke two school records tonight. They attempted 64 free throws, and made 49 of them.
Before every game the Bearkats have an interesting pre game ritual. The night before home games, the team goes to Coach Hooten’s house, eat dinner that his wife cooked them, and watch the film in Coach’s living room.
The Bearkats play Southern Illinois on Saturday at 1 pm. It is the Grow the Growl game, so come out for your chance to win a scholarship.