HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Sam Houston State women’s basketball could not overcome a strong fourth-quarter surge from Wiley College, falling 57-51 to the Wildcats in front of 2,333 spectators at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum on Friday morning.
The Bearkats (0-3) took a three-point lead on a pair of Ashleigh Cooper free throws with 9:31 to go in the game but three minutes later, Shaleiyah Nealey nailed a jumper to give Wiley (5-0) a one-point lead they would not relinquish.
Kiera McKinney led the Kats with 15 points – the highest point total by a Sam Houston player this season – including a jumper with 27 seconds remaining to trim the deficit to four. The Wildcats shot just 11 of 23 from the free throw line but made enough late while outscoring Sam Houston 17-9 in the final frame.
Lydia Baxter accounted for career-best nine rebounds alongside seven points while Tia Harston dished out five assists and Angela Delaney totaled a career-high 10 points including a pair of three pointers.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Bearkats used a late run in the first half to take a 28-27 lead into the locker room behind seven points from Lydia Baxter. Sam Houston hit just 35 percent in the opening quarter and 32 percent for the first half, but took advantage of their size with a 10-rebound advantage on the glass and getting to the foul line 13 times.
Wiley played from in front for nearly the entire first half, opening the game on a 7-0 run and holding a 14-12 edge after the game’s first 10 minutes after Sam Houston hit just 5-for-14 from the floor. The Kats erased the early deficit with a 10-2 run, taking their first lead at 10-9 on a layup from Baxter, but the Wildcats answered with a three from Ariel Taylor to retake the lead.
The Bearkats did not attempt a free throw in the first quarter, but worked their way to the line 13 times in the second period, hitting seven on their way to taking the lead at the half. Sam Houston held Wiley to just 31.6 percent from the floor, including 1-for-6 from three-point range, but still found itself down 23-18 midway through the quarter.
But a 6-2 run started with a pair of freebies from Jada Ballew included a three-point play from Baxter that cut the deficit back to a point and Kierra McKinney gave the Kats the halftime edge with her third bucket of the half with just 32 seconds remaining.
Less than one minute into the third quarter, Wiley was forced to call a timeout after Sam Houston scored the first five points of the frame courtesy of a McKinney layup and Jennifer Oramas layup following a steal from Jada Ballew.
After the squads went back and forth for a duration of the quarter, Jasmine McCants grabbed a McKinney miss for the put back, giving the Kats a five-point lead with 2:32 in the third. One minute later, an Angela Delaney lay in pushed the lead back to five.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Freshman Kiera McKinney had a breakout performance against the Wildcats finishing 7 of 11 from the field with 15 points. The Amarillo product registered four rebounds is 28 minutes. Lydia Baxter added a career-best nine rebounds and Angela Delaney posted a career-high 10 points.
Sam Houston’s nine fourth-quarter points were the fewest through three games this year. The Bearkats struggled to get a rhythm going at the charity stripe, finishing just 12 for 21. For a third consecutive game, Sam Houston outrebounded its opponent this time to the tune of 50-36.
The Bearkats close their brief two-game home stand on Monday against UTRGV. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. from Johnson Coliseum. From there, Sam Houston embarks on an eight-game road trip including the team’s final six non-conference matchups.