Kats Defense Sends Them to the WAC Semi-Finals

Photo by Rwanda Tua’a

Sam Houston Bearkat men’s basketball defeats the California Baptist Lancers 64-51 Wednesday to advance to the Western Athletic Conference Tournament semi-finals.

The Bearkats (25-6, 14-4) quieted the Lancers (17-16, 8-10) with their congesting the defense that was the best in the WAC in the regular season.

“The first one is always really hard,” Bearkat head coach Jason Hooten said in postgame interview on ESPN+.

CBU shot only 22.1% from the field in the first half compared to SHSU’s 48.3%.

That allowed the Bearkats to jump out to a 33-17 lead at halftime.

Senior guard Donte Powers scored 14 points in that half. He went 4-for-4 from the 3-point arc in that span.

Powers would finish with a game-high 21 points.

The Lancers would find a way to get back into the ballgame when they got the deficit to eight at 57-49 with 1:52 left.

Despite this, the Kats were still able to hold off the Lancers and win by double digits.

Sam Houston did not make a field goal in the last five minutes of the game, but their free throws is what helped kept California Baptist from a distance.

The Bearkats shot 16-for-24 (66.7%) from the free throw line in the second half.

They did not shoot any free throws in the first half.

Senior transfer guard Qua Grant was a part of the bad shooting but he still showed why he is WAC Player of the Year.

He finds other ways to contribute.

Grant got nine points along with six assists and four rebounds.

It was also the bench points that helped the Kats with senior forward Tristen Ikpe out for the game.

Sophomore guard Damon Nicholas Jr. scored nine points off the bench while also displaying great defense.

Sophomore transfer guard Lamar Wilkerson also contributed with eight points.

A strong suit for the Bearkats was also their rebounding as they outrebounded the Lancers 41 to 30.

Combined with the defense that held the Lancers to just 32% from the field and forcing 12 turnovers Hooten will take it, despite a bad shooting night from Sam Houston’s own end.

“But I thought our staple has been defense all year long and I thought we played a really good job today,” Hooten added in the interview.

The offense wasn’t where Hooten wanted it.

The camaraderie though has been what has been keeping the team together even through the toughest of stretches on and off the court.

“We just got that kind of team and [the players] are locked in right now. They know we got two more games left and we are going to have to play a lot better tomorrow,” Hooten said.

Sam Houston now awaits either the Grand Canyon Antelopes or the Seattle U Redhawks for the semi-finals.

The game will be broadcasted on ESPN+ and on the radio airwaves of 101.7 KSAM.

Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. CT.

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