SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH– In front of a standout crowd of over 5,500 in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Sam Houston Bearkats marched in and took down another Power 5 school of Utah Utes 65-55 Thursday night to move to 4-0.
The Bearkats (4-0,0-0) never faced the Utes (3-1,0-0) in their history. .
The Kats were 10.5-point underdogs before tip-off but seemingly played like they were the favorites as they led for most of the game.
It was revealed that it was a buy game but ws not revealed how much money was given to Sam Houston from Utah.
In fact, the only time that the Bearkats were down was when the Utes took the lead 3-2 off a three-point shot from junior guard Gabe Madsen with 18:37 left in the first half.
After a mid-range jumper by senior guard Donte Powers 25 seconds later to take back the lead, the Bearkats never gave up the lead nor did the Utes tie.
Sam Houston jumped out to a 13-point lead in the first half 21-8 after senior transfer guard Qua Grant hit a jumper of his own.
But the Utes brought the game close as they went on a 15-6 run to end the first half down 27-23 to the Bearkats.
The Utes had stellar players like junior guards Rollie Worster and Mike Saunders Jr. leading that run. They were everywhere and they gave the Utes confidence.
This was a low scoring first half. That has so far been a part of the recipe for head coach Jason Hooten and his Bearkats. In Oklahoma against the Sooners, the Bearkats gave up only 26 points in that first half.
The Utes only scored 23.
The second half then began and it was a back-and-forth beginning.
The Bearkats would get good looks and call out plays that exposed the Utes defense but either the Utes defense stood up or the Kats just could not capitalize.
The Utes, however, could not respond right either.
They were down by one possession for the majority of the second half. The Bearkats would take a six-point lead on separate occasions but the Utes offense constantly kept fighting back.
Senior Center Branden Carlson was leading the way at the frontcourt, performing well on all aspects of the game.
Just like at Oklahoma though, someone took over to win the game for the Kats.
It was Qua Grant.
With 3:49 left to go with the Bearkats barely holding a 53-51 lead, Hooten called on the DeSoto, Texas, native.
Grant went on to score 10 of the Bearkats last 12 points as they went on a 12-4 run to seal the deal and run away with another upset win 65-55.
Even after those previous 16 minutes of that second half, something clicked and Sam Houston just started controlling most, if not all aspects of the game.
Grant emphasized and praised Hooten’s emphasis of defense and that it helped them win this game.
“We just battle,” said Grant in post-game interview.
The defense showed out again as Sam Houston has now only allowed on average 53 points against Power 5 schools this season.
The Kats also displayed good free throw shooting when it counted, especially at the end of the game. They hit 12 of 14 in the game.
Sam Houston also dominated the glass with 41 rebounds to the Utah’s 31.
For the Utes, Worster and sophomore guard Lazar Stefanic had 14 and 12 points respectively. Worster also gathered 7 rebounds.
Carlson gathered nine points, seven rebounds, four assists, and three blocks.
For Sam Houston, Grant in his best game of the season scored a game high 22 points, four assists and two steals.
Senior guard Jaden Ray had seven points.
All Bearkats that were on the court scored.
The Bearkats will now head back to Huntsville, Texas, for a small break before traveling to Fort Myers, FL, for the Fort Myers Tip-off.
They begin it facing the Northern Illinois Huskies (1-4,0-0). These two teams will have their second encounter with each other with the last time on Nov. 30, 2001, where the Bearkats won 80-73.
Tip-off is scheduled for 11 a.m. central time. It will be on the radio on 101.7 KSAM.