HUNTSVILLE – With the Southland Conference title already secured, Sam Houston State’s Senior Night was a bittersweet affair as they fell 91-87 to Central Arkansas on Wednesday night at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum.
In the final home game of the season for Sam Houston (20-10, 15-2 SLC), the Bearkats could not overcome a Central Arkansas (12-18, 7-10 SLC) team needing a victory to keep its hopes of a berth in the upcoming Southland Conference Tournament alive.
Despite the loss, the Bearkats took the time to honor its four-member senior class of Albert Almanza, Cameron Delaney, Josh Delaney and Marcus Harris after the game. Additionally, SLC officials were on hand to hand deliver this season’s championship trophy to the team following the game.
The Bearkats trailed by as much as 10 in the second half, but every time the Kats closed in, UCA was able to keep their distance thanks to proficient shooting from the 3-point line (13-for-27) and the charity stripe (22-for-25).
Zach Nutall came off the bench to lead the team in scoring with 18 points (7-for-11) and six rebounds, matching the mark he set earlier this season in Conway.
Cameron Delaney followed with 17 points, five boards and two assists. Albert Almanza (season-high 15 points), Kai Mitchell (13) and Harris (10) rounded out the double-digit scorers for the team. Harris also added four boards and seven assists, Delaney scored 11 of his seven in the second half and Mitchell scored all 13 of his points in the final half. Josh Delaney had nine helpers with only two turnovers (zero in the first half).
The game started out at an even pace before UCA pulled away going into the half thanks to a 26-6 run to close out the final period (21-2 in the final 6:25). The Bearkats shot 48 percent from the field in the first half but did not shoot a single free throw.
Central Arkansas was red hot the entire game from distance. They shot 9-for-17 from behind the arc in the first half, 13-for-27 for the entire game and connected on 22 of their 25 shots from the charity stripe.
DeAndre Jones led UCA in scoring with 22 points, with a perfect 11-for-11 shooting performance from the free-throw line. He would also add nine assists.
SHSU only turned the ball over eight times in the but UCA was even better at keeping the ball with only six giveaways in the contest. Central Arkansas scored 14 points of the Kats turnovers, with Sam Houston getting eight points off of UCA’s cough ups.
The Bearkats started the second half hitting their first four field goals courtesy of both Delaney and Mitchell. A Delaney 3-pointer cut the lead to two possessions (50-44) with 18:13 remaining.
With 10:27 left in the game the Bearkats used an 11-2 run to take the lead (65-64). Both teams would exchange baskets towards the end of the game before a missed 3-pointer and an untimely turnover sealed the Bearkats fate.
Mitchell and Nutall scored back-to-back baskets with 2:48 left in the game to tie the game up at 82. However, the Bears connected on seven of their final eight field goals and Jones went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the final minute of the game to hold the Bearkats off.
The Kats will play their final game of the season in anticipation for the Southland Conference Tournament on Saturday as they travel to Nacogdoches to play rival Stephen F. Austin. Tipoff is set for 4:30 p.m.