MOSCOW, Idaho – The Sam Houston State Bearkats got 20 points from Christopher Galbreath Jr., but a late run by Idaho gave the Vandals a 63-54 win at Memorial Gym on Saturday night.
Sam Houston (2-1) led by as much as six in the second half after erasing a 13-point first-half deficit, but fell cold midway through the period as all-Big Sky guard Victor Sanders caught fire on his way to a game-high 22 points for the Big Sky preseason favorites.
Galbreath hit a pair of threes and half of his 16 shots from the field with seven rebounds to lead the Kats, while John Dewey III added 11 points and three assists.
The Kats hit seven threes on the night and forced 20 Vandal (3-0) turnovers, but the difference came at the charity stripe. Idaho converted 24 of 27 times at the foul line, while Sam Houston was just five of nine.
The Kats trailed by as much as 13 in the opening half, but held the Vandals to just one field goal over the final 2:11 to go into the break down just 30-27.
Idaho made their living at the foul line, hitting 13 of 14 freebies, hitting their first 10 in building a 20-7 lead. But a jumper from Galbreath got the Kats going, sparking a 7-0 run that brought the Kats back to within six.
Sam Houston got an early spark from Josh Delaney off the bench as the junior came in midway through the half and nailed two of SHSU’s four threes, including a pair in another 8-2 run. The second came with 2:11 in the period to draw the Kats to within 28-24.
Galbreath canned one of his own as part of an 8-point half, the final field goal by either team late in the half to keep the Kats within striking distance.
Sam Houston opened the second period on a hot streak, scoring seven of the half’s first nine points on buckets from Jamal Williams, Galbreath and Bubba Furlong and eventually built their lead to as much as six at 44-38 on a three-point play from Edwards midway through the half.
But Idaho answered, scoring eight of the next nine points to retake the lead on a jumper from Nate Sherwood before Sanders caught fire. With the Vandals holding a 48-47 lead Sanders went off for nine points on three straight possessions, including hitting a pair of threes after a Galbreath bucket in between to give Idaho a 57-47 lead they would not relinquish.
The Bearkats will now head to Anchorage, Alaska, along with the Vandals to take part in the final playing of the Great Alaska Shootout. They will open up the Shootout on Wednesday when they take on Central Michigan.