The Sam Houston State University men’s basketball team opened their toughest week of basketball all season with four games played in eight days with a 10-4 conference record, which they hoped to improve to 14-4 to end the season.
The stretch of games opened with a contest against the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders on Saturday, February 27.
The Bearkats then traveled to Arkansas to take on the University of Central Arkansas Bears on Monday, February 29.
The Bearkat team didn’t have long to mull about the heartbreaker however, as they had to turn around and make the seven hour bus ride to Conway, Arkansas to take on UCA.
UCA jumped out to a 10 point lead with just under 16 minutes left in the first half. SHSU fought back and managed to head to the locker room only down two points, 33-31.
Junior guard Dakari Henderson came out of the locker room on fire and hit three buckets in a row to give the Bearkats their first lead, 45-41, with 15:40 left in the ballgame.
UCA kept it a close game but the Bearkats outscored the Bears 20-10 in the closing minutes to win the game 83-73.
Henderson led the way for the Bearkats with 28 points.
“We were awfully flat in the first half but we found a way to fight back and win,” said SHSU Head Coach Jason Hooten. “Dakarai Henderson was a big factor in that. I’m really proud of the way he has become a player who can get himself out of a funk and find a way to succeed.”
Against the Islanders, the Bearkats looked for redemption from the 51-48 loss suffered just three weeks prior.
The game was an early shootout but thanks to a hot performance from behind the three point line, the Islanders jumped out to an eight point lead with 12 minutes to play in the first half.
The Bearkats clawed their way back and took their first lead of the game with 5:33 left in the first half. The Islanders fought back and the game headed to the locker room with a score of 34-33 favoring Corpus Christi.
SHSU came out of the locker room fired up and kept the ball game tied until they exploded to take a seven point lead with 11 minutes left in the ball game.
The Bearkats held on to this lead where it was much as 11 points with just over six minutes left in the game.
Junior forward Aurimas Majauskas picked up his fifth and final foul with 1:31 left in the game and that was the final nail in the coffin for the Bearkats.
SHSU was unable to score in the last 3:14 of game time and were two of their last 11 attempts from the field. Paired with that was a 20-4 run over the last 5:52 by the Islanders to win the game 75-70.
“It hurts a lot,” sophomore guard Jamal Williams said. “You know coach had a great game plan prepared for us. To not pull it out it hurts a lot.”
The 11-5 Bearkats will play the 3-14 Cardinals on Thursday at Johnson.
The Cardinals aren’t a team that can be overlooked though and this Bearkat squad knows this firsthand with the final score from their first contest in Beaumont being decided by three points in favor of SHSU 69-66.
Lamar is led by freshman guard Nick Garth who scores 14 points and assists three baskets per contest.
The Cardinals don’t have another scorer who averages double digit points.
If the Bearkats can force Garth to shoot from behind the three point line, where he averages only 33 percent on the season, it should be an easy confidence booster going into the biggest game of the season.
The Bearkats will take on the undefeated in conference play Steven F. Austin Lumberjacks on Saturday for the final test before the conference tournament.
When the Bearkats faced the lumberjacks in Nacogdoches in late January they fell 76-64.
Revenge is another motivator to knock off the undefeated and take down the ‘Kats biggest rival.
SFA is led by three seniors, forward Clide Geffrard, guard Demetrious Floyd, and the star player for the lumberjacks guard/forward Thomas Walkup.
Geffrard and Floyd both average 15 points a game in conference play, as well as combining for 51 assists overall, and 8 rebounds per game.
Walkup is on a plane of his own with an average of 18 points, 7 rebounds, 35 steals, 77 assists, and has shot 59 percent from the field as well.
To cut down the giant, the Bearkats have to keep the ball out of Walkup’s hands as much as possible.
On Thursday March 3, the Bearkats will be back in the friendly confines of Johnson Coliseum to take on the Lamar University Cardinals.
Tipoff is scheduled at 6:30 p.m.