ABILENE – In a battle of the two top teams in the Southland Conference, it was the team already holding the top spot that walked out of Moody Coliseum still on top.
The Sam Houston State Bearkats led by as much as 21 points in the first half before seeing that lead fade away in the second half, and then proceeded to outlast Abilene Christian for a 90-85 win in double overtime on Saturday night.
The win moves the Kats (16-8, 11-0 SLC) to a three-game lead over ACU (19-5, 8-3 SLC) with seven games to play in the SLC schedule, and completes the season sweep over the Wildcats.
Sam Houston held a 37-23 halftime lead and still looked as though they would close it out in regulation before ACU’s Peyton Ricks drained a 3-pointer, his fourth of the game, with .25 seconds left on the clock to send the game to overtime.
From there the Kats would push it to a second overtime where Marcus Harris capped off a perfect 9-for-9 night from the floor with a cold-blooded triple of his own with 33 seconds to play to snap an 83-83 tie and push the Kats to the win.
Harris finished with a game-high 23 points and was one of five Bearkats in double figures. Kai Mitchell also turned in a big game, hitting 10 of 15 from the floor and pumping in a season-high 21 points and seven boards, including the tying bucket on the final possession of the first overtime.
Cameron Delaney also finished with 19 points, hitting all 10 of his foul shots, tops for the Kats on a night that saw them hit 22 of 25 at the charity stripe. That was needed since they finished just 6-for-22 from 3-point range with three of those coming from Harris.
- The win pushes the Kats to an 11-0 start to conference play, tying its best start in league play in program history. The Kats also started 11-0 in 2009-10, the last time the team won a league title, eventually advancing to the NCAA Tournament.
- SHSU is also riding a 12-game win streak overall, which is the longest win streak for the program in the Division I era. It is the longest win streak for the team since the 1985-86 team reeled off 20 in a row. The program record win streak was set by the 1972-73 team which started 28-0 before finishing the year 28-1.
- The Kats are currently one of only seven teams in the nation still unbeaten in its respective conference. The others are Tennessee, Gonzaga, Washington, Prairie View, Lipscomb and Wofford.
- Sam Houston’s current 12-game win streak is the third longest in the nation, trailing only No. 1 Tennessee (18) and No. 4 Gonzaga (13).
- The Kats committed 19 turnovers in the game, tying their season high committed in the first meeting vs ACU in January and in a win over Jackson State. The Kats have not committed 20 or more turnovers in a game in 34 games dating back to last season.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- The Bearkats surrendered an ACU bucket on the first possession of the game, but then turned it on, going on a 20-2 run over the next nine minutes to build a 20-6 lead less than 10 minutes into the game.
- The lead got as big as 21 at 33-12 with 6:14 to play in the half, but then ACU got going thanks to consecutive threes from Ricks that quickly had the lead down to 15 with 3:50 remaining to halftime.
- SHSU scored just one bucket, a floater from Cameron Delaney in the final four minutes of the half.
- SHSU hit 53.6 from the field in the opening half (15 for 28) and forced 12 ACU turnovers. The Wildcats would have just eight turnovers the rest of the way.
- Mitchell had 10 of his points in the first 20 minutes and was one of eight Kats to crack the scoring column.
- The Kats went into halftime up 14, but the Wildcats took less than five minutes to cut that lead down to single digits. A 10-2 run by ACU cut the lead to 41-35 by the 15:00 mark with the Kats getting a scoop shot by Marcus Harris as its only field goal.
- ACU continue to cut the lead down, getting it to 41-38 on Ricks’ third 3-pointer of the game before Josh Delaney answered with a bucket and a dish to Kai Mitchell, keeping the Kats in front 45-40 at the second media timeout.
- The Wildcats outscored the Bearkats 25-10 in the first 13 minutes of the half, taking their first lead on a jumper from Jaren Lewis with 7:12 to play that made it a 48-47 score.
- The lead changed hands 10 times in the second half and overtime, but the Wildcats never had a lead larger than two points at any time during the game.
- Josh Delaney delivered a big 3-pointer with 4:28 to go to break a 53-53 tie. The Kats would not surrender the lead again until Ricks’ 3-pointer at the buzzer of regulation after SHSU had gone 6-for-8 at the foul line in the final 90 seconds of regulation.
- SHSU hit four of its five shots in the first overtime, including a 3-pointer from Harris that put them up 74-73. The Kats did not attempt a free throw in that period and trailed 76-74 with less than a minute to play after a tough layup from Franklin.
- Cameron Delaney then found Kai Mitchell for a game-tying bucket with less than 15 seconds to play, and then blocked a shot by Jaren Lewis to send it to a second overtime.
- In the second overtime, Harris took things to another level. The senior was the only Bearkat to make a field goal, hitting all four of his shots, including a pair 3-pointers to pump in 10 points in the period.
- No shot was bigger than his go-ahead 3-pointer with less than 35 seconds to play, putting the Kats up 86-83. Then, after two free throws from Cameron Delaney, Harris turned around on the defensive end and forced a turnover on Ricks with less than five seconds to play to essentially seal the game.
The Kats will now look to move to 12-0 on Wednesday on the road when they head to the Gulf Coast to take on Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the American Bank Center.