HUNTSVILLE – The Sam Houston State Bearkats could not quite dig themselves out of an early hole on Friday, dropping their first home game of the season, 75-64, to Utah Valley at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum.
The Kats (6-7) trailed by as much as 15 in the first half, but clawed their way back to within a point late in the second period; however, the Wolverines (9-5) had an answer each time, typically in the form of a 3-point basket.
Utah Valley hit 11 triples on the night, including six in the second half, but the biggest may have come from Conner Toolson with just under five minutes to play when he canned one from the right corner just moments after Christopher Galbreath Jr. had pulled the Kats to within a point with a reverse layup to cap a 12-3 Bearkat run.
Galbreath would finish with 14 points and 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the year, while Abrian Edwards joined him with 16 points and 10 rebounds of his own for his first double-double as a Bearkat.
Albert Almanza hit a pair of threes as part of his eight points and Marcus Harris had nine points off the bench, but the Kats finished just 6-for-27 from distance against the Wolverine zone, including just 4-for-18 in the second half.
Seven-foot center Akolda Manyang led Utah Valley with 21 points, 10 and three of the Wolverine’s seven blocks, while Brandon Randolph had 14 points and eight assists. Kenneth Ogbe also added 13 points for Utah Valley.
Sam Houston will kick off conference play on December 30 when it travels to Abilene Christian. The Kats will host their first Southland home game on January 3 against Central Arkansas.
HOW IT HAPPENED IN THE FIRST HALF
The Kats hit eight of their last nine shots of the half, but were still only able to go into the locker room down 11 points after the Wolverines led by as much as 15. Sam Houston needed that late run after hitting just three of its first 19 shots from the floor despite hitting each of the first two shots of the game.
Utah Valley took full advantage of that early cold spell, going on a 22-3 run that had it up 22-7 with less than eight minutes to play in the half before a midrange jumper from Albert Almanza canned a midrange jumper to end the run. Almanza would drain the Kats’ first triple of the game on the next trip down the floor as part of a quick 7-2 run that got Sam Houston’s offense going.
Abrian Edwards would get three buckets to go in the final four minutes, along with a 3-point bucket from Marcus Harris and a highlight dunk from Galbreath over Wolverine forward Zach Nelson that had the UVU lead at just 35-27 before Utah Valley’s Akolda Manyang completed a three-point play with less than a second to play in the half to make it a 38-27 game at the break.
HOW IT HAPPENED IN THE SECOND HALF
Sam Houston started off aggressive in the opening half with an 11-2 run in the opening three minutes with Edwards and Galbreath contributing all of the points. Much of it came from the foul line with the pair hitting seven of eight shots at the charity stripe in that span to get Sam Houston to within 41-36.
That aggressive play had the Bearkats in the bonus at the 16:29 mark, but from there the Wolverines would only be whistled for one foul the remainder of the game. Still, Sam Houston continued to fight, and despite being down 51-42 nearly midway through the half, began its push on a layup from Edwards at the 12:21 mark.
After a three ball from Conner Toolson, Devin Jackson gave the Kats a spark off the bench with triples on consecutive trips down the floor before a layup from John Dewey III capped an 8-0 spurt that had Sam to within 54-52 with less than eight minutes to go. But Jake Toolson answered with a three just 10 seconds later to push the lead back to five before scores from Edwards and Galbreath cut it back to 57-56.
But Conner Toolson hit another three on the next possession and the Kats would get no closer. Utah Valley got its next five points from Manyang at the foul line, and despite a 3-point shot from Almanza and a pair of free throws from Harris, the Kats were held scoreless for nearly the final two minutes of the game before a three from Dewey on the final possession that provided the game’s final margin.