The Sam Houston State University men’s basketball team competed in the fortieth and final Great Alaska Shootout tournament. This tournament has a history of championship caliber teams competing, such as Kansas (1999), Syracuse (2000), and Marquette (2001). The Bearkats matched up against Central Michigan, College of Charleston, and Santa Clara on their way to a 1-2 record over their three games in four days.
Their string of three contests began with a nine-point loss to Central Michigan 71-60. Senior guard Jamal Williams and junior guard John Dewey III led the team with 14 points, and Dewey had a career high with 10 assists in the game. It was Central Michigan’s red-hot shooting with 11 threes in the game and great free-throw shooting that gave the Chippewas an early victory, though. The Bearkats found themselves down 12 points going into halftime.
If SHSU played how they played the last 20 minutes of the game, the outcome of the game may have been different, but the Kats ultimately came up short against their tough opening opponent. Williams was one of three Bearkats who scored in the double figures. He also led the team in rebounds as he snagged eight boards. Senior forward Christopher Galbreath Jr. contributed 12 points and junior G/F Albert Almanza had ten points. Dewey cashed in two three-pointers and had eight total points and ten assists that matched his career high he set the year before.
“We’re not very good yet, but I do like this team a lot,” head coach Jason Hooten said. “I think we’re going to continue to get better, and by the time that conference starts we will be as good as we were last year.
Following the loss, SHSU moved to the consolation side and had to play the next day. On Thursday the Bearkats fell 59-49 to one of the taller teams in the tournament. Charleston came out strong getting 12 points all off three-pointers. The slow start for the Bearkats did not throw them off balance for long. They stayed solid through the rest of the half and played lockdown defense giving Charleston 29.6 percent shooting from the field at the half.
The scoring drought in each half hindered the Bearkats during the intense game. SHSU hit seven threes in the second half. Eventually the game was knotted up at 41-41 thanks to a three ball from Almanza. From there, Charleston went on a 16-5 run as they tried to separate from the Kats. They fought their way back into the game, however, as they pulled within two points, 46-44. They showed great resilience in the game and felt the game was a chance to learn.
“Our guys fought hard again for the second night,” Hooten said. “We fought hard to the bitter end. We just need to get better offensively.”
SHSU showed dominance from the jump against their final opponent as they defeated Santa Clara University 73-59. Galbreath racked up 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds with a career high 6 assists to lead the way. 11 different players put points on the board for the Kats during the game. SHSU went into halftime leading by 19 points. Dewey hit three of the team’s nine three-pointers in the game. He scored 13 points and dished out 4 dimes while Williams contributed six points nine rebounds, five assists, and a pair of steals.
The Bearkats have started the 2017-18 season 3-3 as they come home from Alaska with seven more games left on their non-conference slate before they head to Abilene to play the ACU Wildcats Dec. 30 to open Southland play.