The Sam Houston University Bearkats men’s basketball team continued to roll to start their conference season, defeating rival Stephen F. Austin University in a low-scoring affair with a 49-41 final. With the win, the Bearkats move to 5-1 in conference play.
To go along with the statement victory, head coach Jason Hooten became the All-time wins leader in program history with his 226th win passing his predecessor Bob Marlin in the process. Hooten has been with the program since 2004 and took over as head coach in 2010 after Marlin accepted a position with the University of Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns.
Before that, Hooten was an assistant at now conference rival Tarleton State University where he played from 1989-1991 before joining the coaching staff two years later.
However, in Hooten fashion, the biggest concern of the day was getting the win.
“Maybe someday when I get old and retire, I might look back and say, ‘Wow, that was pretty cool,’ but for today, it is full steam ahead and we will enjoy this one tonight,” Hooten said. “The guys always talk about enjoying every victory and enjoying every shot that goes in.”
A big reason for the teams’ success has been graduate guard Savion Flagg who transferred from Texas A&M University before the season started. Flagg currently leads the Western Athletic Conference in scoring, averaging just under 20 points per game, and was recently named to the Lou Henson Award mid-season watch list.
Flagg scored 19 points to go along with six rebounds in the game. He also had a crucial block with 29 seconds left in the game to keep the Bearkats lead at five.
“I have been hearing that this is a pretty big rivalry game for Sam Houston, so I felt like everyone came out with a chip on their shoulders,” Flagg said. “The coaches came up with a really good scout. All the players locked in and were really good at paying attention and focusing the last two days.”
Flagg was also the only player in the game to play all 40 minutes. Coach Hooten commented on that after the game.
“Savion did not come off the floor,” Hooten said. “He played 40 minutes, and how many guys do you know can play 40 minutes in college basketball? He has just been an amazing guy and a great competitor and a great teammate.”
Flagg also credited Hooten and the rest of the coaching staff for helping him develop as a player the entire season.
“I feel like I have known coach Hooten for years,” Flagg said. “He is a really open guy, really loving. He welcomed me in with open arms. The relationship has always been there because they were my first offer out of high school. Coach Mudge and everyone on the coaching staff really brought me in with open arms and coach Hooten has been a really good coach to me.”
The defense was a big part of the win as they held the Lumberjacks to only 12 points in the first half.
Only one other Bearkat hit double digits in the game, with junior guard Jaden Ray having 16 points on the night. He also had five rebounds and two steals during the game. Senior guard Demarkus Lampley struggled on the night, shooting 1-9 from the field, but hit a huge three-pointer late in the game to help secure the lead for the Bearkats.
“I think anytime you need a basket, not just to make him feel better obviously, but we needed a basket period,” Hooten said. “We ran the play for him. Gotta give [Jaden Ray] credit for making the great pass, and he stepped up and made a big one when we really needed it.”
With 19 seconds left, the game was capped off by a huge slam dunk from junior guard Javion May to give the Bearkats a seven-point lead.
“These guys are the best of the best,” Hooten said. “SFA is a top team in this league and so is New Mexico State, so we just gotta keep getting better. I still see a lot of things execution-wise, and I am just really proud of how much better we have gotten defensively.”
The Bearkats will continue conference play Thursday night in Huntsville, Texas as they will take on the New Mexico State Aggies at 6:30 p.m. in the Johnson Coliseum.