The Sam Houston State University men’s basketball team came into last Saturday’s game with the momentum from a two game win streak and a nine and four conference record.
The Bearkats needed to record a win to stay in the competition for a first place spot with Stephen F. Austin, Texas A&M Corpus Christi and Houston Baptist University.
The ‘Kats faced off against the University of Central Arkansas Bears.
In the 105-75 victory, SHSU caged the Bears and notched the team’s first 100 point game since December 29, 2014 against Howard Payne University.
Junior guard Jalin Barnes led the team in points for the first time this season, with 19 points as well as four assists. Barnes went six for six from the field, including five three pointers.
“I just took every opportunity they gave me,” Barnes said. “I felt good shooting.”
The Bearkats had a spectacular night from behind the three point line, with over 48 percent of their shots from range going in. The 16 three pointers the ‘Kats made was just two shy of the record set against the University of Kentucky in 2001.
“We shot the ball well,” Bearkat Head Coach Jason Hooten said. “It’s contagious, you get going and then the basket starts to look really big.”
The thing that contributed to the Bearkats victory the most, however, was their bench.
The Bearkat bench outscored the UCA bench by 29 points and gave the ‘Kats starters valuable rest time.
“Our Bench was very big tonight,” Barnes said. “We had a good offensive game and everyone stepped up, including the bench.”
“If we can continue to get good production from our bench like we did tonight then we can get even better,” Hooten said.
One Bearkat who really pleased the crowd was junior guard Dakari Henderson when he dunked the ball with 9:52 left in the second half to put the Bearkats up by 32 points.
“I just saw the rim,” Henderson said. “Jamal already knows. He threw it perfect. We’re really starting to gel as a team.”
The Bearkats will need the full support of the crowd when the 12-3 in conference play A&M CC Islanders come to town Saturday.
Corpus Christi comes to Huntsville securely in second place, on a three game win streak, and with five of their last six being notched as wins for the team.
The Islanders boast the conference’s best shooting defense, with opponents only with a measly .405 percent on the season. A big contributor to this is also the islander’s ability to block shots, with five rejected per game.
The player the Bearkats need to look to shut down is junior 6-8 forward Thomas Rashawn. Rashawn leads the Islanders in points with 17.4 points a game, 8.5 rebounds a game, and shoots 56 percent from the field.
The Bearkats should try to force Rashawn to shoot from behind the three point line, where he is a 25 percent shooter on the season.
One place SHSU has an advantage is rebounding, where the Bearkats have an advantage of almost three rebounds a game.
If the Bearkats can shut down Rashawn and outrebound the Islanders they can easily win on Saturday.
The teams will tipoff at 6:45 p.m. Saturday February 27.