The Sam Houston State University men’s basketball team defeated the Stephen F. Austin State University Lumberjacks 94-72 Saturday night at Johnson Coliseum to remain the only undefeated team in the Southland Conference.
Saturday night’s game was the biggest home game in a long time for the Bearkats. Entering the matchup, they were 8-0 in conference play for the first time since the 2009-10 season when they won the SLC, and with defending conference-champion and archrival Lumberjacks coming to town this game had the feel of a heavyweight fight. The Bearkats landed a knockout punch in the first round when junior guard Chad Bowie hit a three pointer that put SHSU ahead 26-10 with 9:27 left in the first half.
Every time the Lumberjacks looked like they were going to make a run, the Bearkats had an answer. At one point, it was a three pointer by senior guard Josh Delaney. Twice, it was alley-oop dunks by junior forward RJ Smith. Whatever it was, SHSU had an answer for anything and everything the Lumberjacks did.
It became clear late in the first half that SFA simply did not have an answer for the Bearkats. Trailing 47-29 the Lumberjacks began playing a 2-3 zone defense as opposed to their typical high pressure man-to-man. When the Lumberjacks made the switch to zone, the Kats scored on back-to-back possessions, including an alley-oop dunk by Smith. SHSU dominated the first half—shooting 69 percent from the floor and 75 percent from the three-point line to take a 58-34 lead into the locker room. “Our offense was getting us open shots, open looks, easy buckets,” senior guard Cameron Delaney said. “We were executing the offense, which led to easy points. The game plan the coaches put together was very solid, and when we put it together on the court it showed.”
In the second half, the Bearkats never let the Lumberjacks back in the game; the closest they ever got was within 17 points. Cameron Delaney seemed to put the final nail in the coffin, nailing a trio of three-pointers on consecutive possessions— the last one coming with 9:38 left in the game that swelled the Kats’ lead to 25, their largest of the night.SHSU was led by Cameron Delaney, who scored 18 points and junior forward Kai Mitchell, who picked up a double-double (16 points and 10 rebounds). Four Kats finished with double figures, and two other players had nine points. Junior guard Chad Bowie came off the bench and scored 13 points and Josh Delaney finished with 11 points and six assists. Senior forward Albert Almanza had nine points, which included seven of the Bearkats’ first 13 points.
This team played with a focus and intensity on Saturday that has not been seen in Huntsville in long time. They are currently 9-0, and head coach Jason Hooten said this team is unique following the decisive victory. “There’s a difference between good and special,” Hooten said. “I told these guys, ‘You have an opportunity to be special.’”
The Bearkats will be at Johnson Coliseum Wednesday as the take on the McNeese State University Cowboys.