HUNSTVILLE – The Sam Houston State Bearkats moved to 10-0 in Southland Conference play, the second-best start in program history, as they beat the McNeese Cowboys 77-62 on Wednesday night at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum.
The 10-0 start is the best conference start since the Bearkats (15-8, 10-0 SLC) won their first 11 conference games during their 2009-10 season, which is also the last time the team claimed a league title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
Cameron Delaney led a balanced scoring attack for the Bearkats, scoring a total of 16 points to go along with four rebounds and two assists. Delaney was joined in double-digit scoring by Kai Mitchell, who scored 14 points and grabbed eight boards and RJ Smith who added 14 off the bench on 5-for-7 shooting and five rebounds.
Josh Delaney had just five points on the night, but dished out eight assists, while backcourt mates Chad Bowie and Marcus Harris combined for 17 points and four steals. The Kats finished with 13 turnovers for the game, but committed just four in the second half.
Despite shooting 47 percent from the field, McNeese (7-15, 2-6 SLC) struggled from the free-throw line where they hit just 10 of 22 tries.
Roydell Brown led the way for the Cowboys with a double-double, finishing with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
- The McNeese defense forced frequent turnovers from Sam Houston. SHSU, a team that only turns it over on average 12 times per contest turned the ball over nine times in the half.
- The edge in bench points went to SHSU (15-4) with RJ Smith and Chad Bowie accounting for all of those points.
- Smith came off the bench and provided a much-needed scoring punch. He scored nine points in 12 minutes of action on a perfect 3-for-3 from the field and three rebounds.
- After falling behind early the Bearkats fought back and drew even at the 4:04 mark after free throws from Kai Mitchell who tied the game at 24.
- Smith and Josh Delaney connected on a lob with 3:15 remaining to give the Bearkats their first lead of the half (26-25).
- After being down 20-12 the Bearkats outscored the Cowboys 20-7 to finish the half to go into the break up 32-27.
- Bowie nailed two three-pointers in the half including a buzzer beater to close the half.
- McNeese shot 46 percent in the half including 50 percent from behind the arc. Despite their efficiency from the field the Cowboys shot only 3-for-12 from the free throw line.
- Sam Houston State started the second half on an 8-2 run that included back-to-back triples from Marcus Harris and Cameron Delaney and extend the lead to double digits (40-29).
- Cameron Delaney scored 13 points the knocking down two of the team’s eight second-half triples.
- Zach Nutall connected on two of his four three-point attempts in the second half with his second one giving the Bearkats the 56-47 lead with 9:46 remaining.
- Mitchell bounced back after a poor shooting first half going 4-for-7 from the field in the second half.
- The Bearkats shot only 38 percent from the field in the first half and 31 percent from three. The team found their stroke in the second half shooting 57 percent from the field and 53 percent from beyond the arc, canning eight 3-pointers.
- Ball movement was key for Sam Houston as they recorded 14 second half assists to compliment all the of the 3-pointer they knocked down.
- Sam Houston scored 29 total points off the bench to McNeese’s nine and won the assist battle 22-11.
- The second half saw very little unanswered scoring action. McNeese responded after most of by Sam Houston’s runs, but the Bearkats were able to keep the lead with timely three-point shots.
The Bearkats will have their chance to tie the best start in the school’s history on Saturday as they travel to Abilene to face off against Abilene Christian in a battle of the top two teams in the Southland standings. Tip-off is set for 6:00 p.m. at Moody Coliseum in a game that will be aired on ESPN3.