HUNTSVILLE – Cameron Delaney erupted for a career-high 25 points to push the Sam Houston State Bearkats to a 66-52 comeback victory over Incarnate Word on Saturday at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum.
The Kats (8-8, 3-0 SLC) trailed by nine in the first half and four at the break, but the second 20 minutes belonged to Delaney and his second-half offensive explosion. The senior scored 22 of his career-high 25 in the second half, including all four of the teams 3-pointers in the half.
The victory keeps the Bearkats as the lone unbeaten team in the Southland Conference and runs the teams win streak to four in a row overall.
Kai Mitchell was the only other Kat to join Delaney in double figures, pumping in 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting with eight rebounds. Zach Nutall followed his breakout night on Wednesday by hitting his three shots of the game off the bench and finished with nine points and a pair of blocks.
Xavier Bryant turned in a solid night in 17 minutes off the bench as well, dishing out seven assists without a turnover.
Much of that came in the second half when the Kats clamped down defensively and forced 15 UIW (6-10, 1-2 SLC) turnovers while holding the Cardinals to just eight points in the first 14 minutes of play to up its lead to as much as 16.
The start of the game was not so favorable for the Bearkats as they shot the ball at a 45 percent clip, but gave six offensive boards that led to an 11-0 UIW edge in second-chance points.
Nutall injected some early energy for the Kats in the half, providing seven of the team’s first 16 points and keeping the Kats in the game in the early moments.
With the score at 24-19 Mitchell was able to keep the lead from ballooning by scoring the Kats next six points. That run included a strong defensive sequence from Delaney as he poked the ball free and set up Nutall at the foul line where he nailed a pair to cut the lead down to four points, the closest the Bearkats had been since the 16-minute mark.
The team did a great job of keeping UIW off the line and bench contributions kept the Kats alive as they went into the half with only a four-point deficit at 33-29.
The Kats came out in the second half with phenomenal defensive intensity with a block from senior Albert Almanza and a steal from fellow senior Josh Delaney, with both defensive plays leading to scores from Cameron Delaney to quickly tie the game at 33.
Despite their struggles from the perimeter the Kats rode a wave of forced turnovers and timely baskets from Cameron Delaney to surge past UIW and never looked back.
The Kats forced 23 turnovers and held UIW below its per-game averages in points, in field goal percentage and three-point percentage.
Along with Cameron Delaney’s scoring barrage, Mitchell gave the team many second chance opportunities with his tenacious work on the glass with five offensive rebounds.
The lead the Bearkats had would be cut down to only six with three minutes remaining before Cameron Delaney would go on his own personal 7-0 run to extend the lead to 13 and put the game well out of reach.
The Bearkats will look to tie their best start to conference play as they face off against Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Wednesday at the Johnson Coliseum. Tipoff is set for 6:30.