HOUSTON – The Sam Houston State Bearkats trailed at the half for the first time in conference play, but came back in the second half to take down Houston Baptist, 71-65, on Saturday night at Sharp Gym.
The win keeps the Kats (10-8, 5-0 SLC) atop the Southland Conference standings as the lone unbeaten in the league and moves SHSU to 5-0 in league play for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
Kai Mitchell led all players with 18 points and nine rebounds, along with three blocked shots to reach double figures in scoring for the fifth consecutive game. He was joined in double figures by Cameron Delaney with 14 points and five boards, while Albert Almanza and Josh Delaney each added 11 points each.
Josh Delaney also added eight assists to his night, an evening that saw the Bearkats hit just 4-for-16 from 3-point range after hitting no less than seven in their last eight games.
It also marked the fourth straight win for SHSU over the Huskies (5-11, 1-4 SLC), who have now had three of their four losses in league play come by six points or less. Ian DuBose, who entered the night leading the league in scoring, finished with 15 points to lead the way with four of those coming in the game’s final minute after a night that saw Cam Delaney and Marcus Harris spearhead a splendid defensive effort by the Kats.
In all the Bearkats forced 22 Husky turnovers and held the top scoring team to 39.4 percent and 16 points below its per-game average.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Mitchell was the catalyst early on for the Kats, scoring their first six points and putting in 10 in the half, but Sam Houston still trailed by a bucket at the break after committing eight turnovers and hitting just two of its nine tries from 3-point range.
His 10 points came in the first 10 minutes of the game with his fifth bucket putting the Kats in front 14-13. Harris and Bryant followed with consecutive steals and converted all four times at the stripe as part of a 10-1 run that had SHSU up 20-14.
Cameron Delaney had both of the Bearkat 3-pointers in the half with the first coming at the 6:27 mark that had the Kats up six; however, Ian DuBose, the league’s leading scorer, immediately answered with a 3-pointer of his own and added another later on as part of a 12-2 Husky run that surged HBU back in front, eventually going into halftime up 35-33.
Neither team was able to get a leg up in the early part of the second half with things tied up at 42-42 nearly midway through. The Kats then subbed in RJ Smith and got an immediate shot in the arm as the redshirt sophomore knocked in five quick points after SHSU had gone nearly five minutes without a field goal.
Still, the Huskies came back to take the lead on a Qon Murphy 3-pointer with 9:57 to go; however, the Husky freshman was whistled for a technical foul and SHSU answered with a 12-3 run that included a triple from Smith and points from five different Kats.
That run pushed the Kats to a 58-52 lead with 6:38 to play and from there they did not give the lead back. Sam Houston was able to get into the bonus early and hit 14 foul shots in the second period to keep the Huskies at bay.
HBU got as close as four points with 4:38 to go on a layup from Braxton Bonds, but Cameron Delaney answered with a steal and a layup on the next defensive possession and added a pair of foul shots just two minutes later to push the lead to seven. Josh Delaney then found Mitchell for his final field goal of the game to peak the lead at 66-57 with 1:29, which was plenty for the Kats as they hit five of six foul shots in the game’s final minute.
The Kats will stay on the road for another game on Wednesday at Northwestern State. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. at Prather Coliseum.