Fresh off their first victory of the season, the one-win Sam Houston State Bearkats could not complete the upset Thursday evening as the team fell to conference leader Stephen F. Austin State 83-65.
“I’m going to give it to our girls,” head coach Brenda Welch-Nichols said. “They fought hard. Again, we came up short.”
As expected in a rivalry game, both the Bearkats and the SFA Ladyjacks came out with heart and intensity. However, SHSU started the game red hot, taking a 17-10 lead in the first quarter, which forced Ladyjack head coach Mark Kellogg to take an early time out. Fighting to beat the odds of defeat, the Bearkats kept the Ladyjacks’ leading scorer in check during the first half. Senior guard Taylor Ross, who averages 17.9 points per game for SFA, was held to only three first half points. The Bearkats went into the locker room with motivation and a three-point lead, 35-32.
The second half was a different ballgame.
After leading the Ladyjacks for a total of 16:30, the Bearkats came out cold in the third quarter. SHSU turned the ball over on its first two possessions and the downhill ride began. The Bearkats shot 18.2 percent from the field in the third quarter, making only two of 11 shots. SFA on the other hand, made adjustments and started to pile on points. The Ladyjacks made nine of their 17 shots in the third quarter to take a 58-47 lead into the fourth.
“The third quarter [was the difference maker tonight],” Welch-Nichols said. “Just shooting in the third quarter we only shot 18 percent and we need to do a better job of that. We were shooting in the thirties, forties and fifties and we kind of just got out of our game plan a bit.”
SHSU failed to comeback after falling behind 75-54. Ross and Ladyjack senior guard Breteny Branch started to get into a rhythm and knock down shots. Ross finished with 21 points, while Branch scored a game-high 25 points.
“I just think Branch just got hot,” Welch-Nichols said. “She’s going to get hot and she’s going to get her points, but we have to do a better job of defending everything else”
At the end of the game, the Bearkats finished shooting 38.5 percent from the field, but had four players score in double digits. Senior center Jasmine McCants led the team in scoring with 17 points, followed by 13 points from both junior guard Angela Delaney and freshman guard Tia Harston. Freshman guard Rachel Harrell added 10.
McCants earned 11 of her 17 points from the free throw, an aspect the Bearkats have improved in as the season has progressed. SHSU made 19 of its 25 free throws (75 percent) in Thursday’s contest.
“Early on in the season we were not good from the line,” Welch-Nichols said. “I have to commend Jasmine McCants. She did a great job from the line. Number 55 was a horse and McCants battled her every minute of the way.”
The Bearkats will have a quick turnaround, as the team will take its 1-18 overall record (1-8 SLC) on the road to matchup against Abilene Christian on Saturday.
Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.