Darius Gatson scored 19 points on six-of-eight three-pointers to lead the Bearkats to a 69-63 Southland Tournament first round win over Central Arkansas. The Kats will play Oral Roberts in the quarterfinals Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Katy.
Gatson didn't score in the first half but hit six threes in the second period. The senior's 19 points was his second highest scoring output of the season. He scored 20 in the season opener at Arkansas.
"There's nobody that deserves a game that like more than Darius (Gatson)," said Bearkat coach Jason Hooten. "That's what seniors do, when it's a big game they step up to the plate."
Forward James Thomas scored 16 points and had 11 rebounds, eight on the offensive side. He played most of the game with a bandage over his right eye after taking a hit to the head early in the contest.
The Bearkats trailed 29-28 at half but had an opportunity with 10 seconds remaining to take a lead to the locker room. A quick turnover ended the possession and kept UCA in the lead.
Forward Terrance Motley and guard Jeremy McKay came off the bench to provide a spark. Motley scored eight points and McKay had five.
"Terrance (Motley) and Jeremy (McKay) were probably our players of the game," said Hooten. "Those guys gave us an unbelievable lift off the bench. They haven't been playing a lot lately and I'm really proud of their character for waiting their turn and being ready to be called on."
Freshman Paul Baxter scored the first Bearkat basket on a three-pointer for his only points of the first half. Baxter finished the game with seven points and three assists but turned it over four times.
Sam Houston had a 13 point advantage at two different times in the second half. Central Arkansas chipped away at the lead in the final few minutes and cut it to five in the final seconds.
Central Arkansas was led by LaQuentin Miles with 19 points and six rebounds. DeShone McClure chipped in 16 points. Jarvis Garner had nine points and ten rebounds.
The Kats shot 48% from the field in the game and held the Bears to just 37% shooting. SHSU was outrebounded 37-36 but scored 18 second chance points to UCA's 10.
Southland Conference Men's Tournament Schedule/Results
Wednesday, March 13
Game 1: No. 8 McNeese St. 62, No. 5 Nicholls St. 59
Game 2: No. 6 Sam Houston St. 69, No. 7 Central Arkansas 63
Thursday, March 14
Game 3: No. 8 McNeese St. vs. No. 4 Southeastern La., 5 p.m. (SLCDN)
Game 4: No. 6 Sam Houston State vs. No. 3 Oral Roberts, 7:30 p.m. (SLCDN)
Friday, March 15
Game 5: Winner Gm. 3 vs. No. 1 Stephen F. Austin, 5 p.m. (ESPN3)
Game 6: Winner Gm. 4 vs. No. 2 Northwestern St., 7:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
Saturday, March 16
Game 7: Championship Game, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
All times Central