ABILENE – The Sam Houston State Bearkats nearly erased a 14-point deficit in the second half, but Abilene Christian did just enough to hold them off for a 75-72 win in the Kats’ Southland Conference opener on Saturday night at Moody Coliseum.
The Kats (6-8, 0-1 SLC) were red hot in the opening half, hitting seven of nine tries from 3-point range to go in tied; however, a cold start to the second half was too much to overcome, despite a late 15-2 run that cut the Wildcats’ (9-6, 1-1 SLC) lead down to just a point with less than 2:30 to play.
John Dewey III did much of the damage in that stretch with seven of his team-high 18 points coming during that run, including a 3-point play with 2:27 left that had the ACU lead down to 67-66. But ACU responded with seven of the game’s next eight points and held the Kats without a bucket for a key two-minute stretch to ice the game.
Dewey added four assists and hit all seven of his foul shots in 33 minutes on the floor, while Christopher Galbreath Jr. added 17 points and six rebounds. Josh Delaney gave the Kats nine late points off the bench, while Marcus Harris also had nine points. Jamal Williams gave the Kats eight points and seven rebounds.
In all, the Kats hit nine triples on the night, but were just 2-for-12 in the second half while hitting 41 percent from the floor for the night.
The Bearkats will return home to open up the home portion of conference play when it hosts Central Arkansas on Wednesday, January 3. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. at Johnson Coliseum.
HOW IT HAPPENED IN THE FIRST HALF
The Kats hit seven of their nine tries from 3-point range and turned the ball over just four times in equaling their highest-scoring first half of the season, going into the locker room tied up at 39-39 after ACU hit five of its final six shots of the half.
Sam Houston led by as much as five late in the half behind 10 points from Galbreath and seven each from Harris and Dewey, but ACU got a jumper from Tevin Foster and a 3-point play from Jaren Lewis in the final 91 seconds to even things up at the midway point.
It was an 11-0 run by ACU in just under two minutes of work that opened its lead up to 23-15 with 12:28 to play in the half before the first of two 3-pointers from Albert Almanza in the half ignited an 8-0 Bearkat run that saw the Kats tie it up at 23-23 on a straightaway bomb by Galbreath.
Another 3-pointer, this one from Williams, put the Kats up for the first time at 28-27 with 5:25 to go and was followed by a 3-point play by junior Josh Boutte who was making his season debut. Harris would then score five of the next eight Bearkat points to push the advantage to 39-34 before the Wildcats’ late surge brought things back to all-square going into the locker room.
HOW IT HAPPENED IN THE SECOND HALF
The Wildcats opened the second half on a 13-2 run, holding the Bearkats to just one field goal in the first 3:30 to establish a double-digit lead. Two scores from Dewey and a bucket from Williams got the deficit back to single digits, but ACU responded with seven straight points to up its lead to a game-high 14 points at 65-51 with 7:30 to play.
But from there the Kats got going, reeling off a 15-2 run over the next five minutes to cut the lead down to one. Dewey had seven points in that stretch, with five coming at the foul line to go with a pair of 3-pointers from Delaney on consecutive possessions.
But those would be the only threes of the half for the Kats and Sam Houston would not get any closer than 67-66 after a 3-point play from Dewey with 2:27 to play. ACU managed just two field goals in the after the 12:19 mark, but managed to make five key free throws in the final minute with a key putback from Jaylen Franklin with less than 40 seconds to play proving to be the game’s big bucket.