HUNTSVILLE – Stephen F. Austin used strong start in the first twenty minutes to down Sam Houston State 65-53 Saturday night at Johnson Coliseum.
The Bearkats (18-13, 12-6 SLC) missed their first 16 shots from beyond the arc on the night while Stephen F. Austin (25-6, 14-4 SLC) rattled in eight long balls. Still, due to McNeese's win over Lamar earlier in the day, the Bearkats will enter next week's Southland Conference Tournament as the No. 4 seed.
Christopher Galbreath Jr. led the Kats in the scoring column with 13 points as the lone player on the Sam Houston squad to drain a triple. Marcus Harris was the only other Kat to score in double figures with 12 on a night where he hit eight freebies.
Leon Gilmore III was the spark that set the fire for the Lumberjacks as he scored a career-high 23 points, including nine of the first 11 SFA points while also achieving his fifth career double-double with 11 boards. Shannon Bogues rattled in three triples as the only other Lumberjack is double figures with 15.
The Kats clinched a first-round bye in the Southland Conference Tournament in Katy which kicks off next week. As the No. 4 seed the Kats get the winner of New Orleans and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday at the Merrell Center.
HOW IT HAPPENED IN THE FIRST HALF
SFA had an unlikely start jumping out to an 11-2 lead in the first five minutes after Gilmore drained his first four triples of the night, a stark contrast from his 4-24 mark from downtown on the year entering the game. The Lumberjacks defense continued to prove to be a puzzle the Kats couldn’t solve as SFA stretched their lead to 18-4 after Gilmore sank his fourth triple in the first ten minutes.
The Kats’ early shooting woes continued as they found themselves down by as much as 26 during the first twenty minutes as they shot 22 percent and didn’t hit a single triple in the first half compared to Stephen F. Austin’s 54 percent mark and seven first-half triples.
Sam Houston would score the final five points of the half off of two Harris jumpers and a John Dewey III free throw, but SFA would still go on to carry a commanding 37-16 lead into the halftime lockers.
HOW IT HAPPENED IN THE SECOND HALF
The Kats picked up where they left off in the first half with four straight points to pull within 17 but couldn’t cut into the lead anymore with two straight turnovers as the Lumberjacks soon went back up by 21 after a Bogues triple.
Sam Houston would see the Stephen F. Austin lead swell all the way to 24 in the second half, but couldn’t get any closer than 12 as the Lumberjacks answered back to everything the Kats threw at them. Sam Houston did outscore their Piney Woods rival Stephen F. Austin in the second half 37-28, but it wasn’t enough for the Kats to overcome their forgettable first half.