HUNTSVILLE – The Sam Houston State Bearkats held off a second-half rally by the Central Arkansas Sugar Bears to pick up their first win of Southland Conference play on Wednesday night with a 66-62 win at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum.
Jaylonn Walker missed her first 11 shots from the floor, but finished strong and had a big night at the foul line, totaling a game-high 18 points to go with seven rebounds for the game. The junior who entered the game ranked fourth in the SLC in scoring did not record her first field goal of the game until the fourth quarter, but put up a dozen points in the final period, including seven points in the final two minutes after the Sugar Bears (5-8, 0-3 SLC) had taken the lead.
The Kats (6-6, 1-1 SLC) snapped a 10-game losing streak to the Sugar Bears with the win.
They led 33-20 at the half, but UCA responded with a 24-12 advantage in the third quarter to push their way back into the game. They would eventually take the lead in the fourth quarter with the lead changing hands six times in the final 10 minutes before the Kats pulled it out.
Amber Leggett turned in 16 points, 13 in the first half, while La’Sha Haynes had her first double-double of the year with 10 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.
Sam Houston hit just 34.7 percent from the field for the game against the Sugar Bears, who came in with the top-ranked scoring defense in the SLC, but made good at the foul line, hitting 30 of 43 shots while UCA was just 8-for-20. Mekeylan Hicks led UCA with 17 points, while Taylor Sells had 15.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Leggett helped the Kats get off to a fast start, scoring each of Sam Houston’s first seven points on her way to 13 in the opening half. That early 7-0 run in the opening quarter quickly gave the Bearkats the lead, one which they would take all the way into the halftime locker room.
They hit half of their 14 shots in the opening quarter before slowing down in the second period; however, they were able to clamp down on the defensive end, holding the Sugar Bears to just 8-for-23 from the field in the first 20 minutes on their way to taking a 33-20 lead at the break.
The third quarter quickly proved to be a struggle on the offensive end for the Kats. The Sugar Bears came roaring back with 24 points of their own. The Kats went just 3-for-11, shooting 27.3 percent as a team in the period with UCA’s Sells hitting a shot just before the buzzer to bring the Sugar Bears back to within a point entering the final period.
UCA took its first lead since 2-0 early in the fourth quarter on a bucket by Kamry Orr, but Haynes immediately answered on the other end for SHSU. The lead would change hands two more times in the next 90 seconds, including when Walker delivered her first field goal of the game, a 3-pointer on a feed from Jennifer Oramas that put the Kats up 51-49 with 7:07 to go.
The Sugar Bears would eventually get the lead back and pushed it up to 56-52 on Antonija Bozic’s third triple of the night, but from there it was all Bearkats. Led by six points from Walker, the Kats scored each of the next nine points, including a bank shot from the left block by Walker that put SHSU ahead for good at 57-56.
UCA had one final shot in the waning moments of the game after Hicks had a chance for a 3-point play with less than 15 seconds to play, but she missed the foul shot and Oramas followed by making two more to ice the game at 66-62.
The Kats will now go in search of their first road win of league play on Saturday when they travel to San Antonio to take on Incarnate Word. Tipoff is set for 1:00 p.m. from the McDermott Convocation Center in the Alamo City.