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February 16, 2014

SHSU MEN'S BASKETBALL — Bearkats lose to rival Stephen F. Austin

Sam Houston rallies, not enough in 67-60 loss to league-leader SFA

HUNTSVILLE — The Bearkats found themselves in a hole they could not dig out of in Saturday’s 67-60 loss to Stephen F. Austin.

Playing a matchup between the Southland Conference’s top two men’s basketball teams, Sam Houston State fell behind by 14 points in the first half and trailed by 16 with 9:37 to go in the second.

Then the Kats fought back for a compelling finish. Junior post Michael Holyfield scored following a missed 3-pointer by Dakarai Henderson. Henderson drilled back-to-back 3s after turning the ball over on the previous possession.

Sam Houston was suddenly within eight points, despite being outplayed for much of the game.

“It was good that we fought back but we can’t put ourselves in that hole,” Bearkat point guard Kaheem Ransom said. “We didn’t come out with any energy. We dug ourselves a hole so the comeback wasn’t enough to finish the game. If we come out with that same fire and defensive effort at the beginning, we’ll be able to jump on teams and it won’t be like this.”

Will Bond knocked down a 3 for the Bearkats before SFA went on an 11-0 run to gain separation from Sam Houston in the first half. The Kats cut the lead to 10 points by halftime and started off strong in the second half.

James Thomas scored the first bucket of the period and a tip-in by Ransom brought the Kats within eight points just a minute and a half into the second.

Then Sam Houston had a dry spell offensively, scoring just five points in a span of 9:12. That allowed the Lumberjacks to build on their lead, pushing it out to 16 points during that time.

“They got that 16-point lead on us midway through the second half and at that time, as a coach, you try to find a spark somewhere,” Sam Houston head coach Jason Hooten said. “I thought Dakarai gave us a spark off the bench, made a couple of shots, got the crowd back in it. That was big. But you know our guys are going to keep playing hard. We fought, got in the press and did really good. We got something really good out of our press today I was excited about.

“But the bottom line is just they outplayed us today. They were better than we were.”

The Lumberjacks were led by the sharp shooting of Jacob Parker, who put up 15 of his game-high 20 points in the first half. Parker went into the game averaging 15 points per contest.

As the Kats were making their run, Parker hit a 3 to put SFA ahead 59-49 with 2:12 left to play. A free throw by freshman Aurimas Majauskas and layup by Paul Baxter brought the Kats within seven.

But the teams traded scores until Jabari Peters made a 3 to make it 65-60 with 18 seconds to go. The Kats were able to chip away because of their press, which twice forced the Lumberjacks into calling timeouts and even led to Parker dribbling out of bounds.

Yet SFA was still the more opportunistic group throughout the day. The teams matched each other in turnovers with 12 apiece, but it was the Jacks who scored 13 points off giveaways compared to the Bearkats’ two.

SFA also went to the free-throw line 29 times and knocked down 23 attempts. The Kats went 9 for 14 from the free-throw line.

“When you get two very good basketball teams together you’re going to have a grind,” SFA coach Brad Underwood said. “It’s not going to be a real pretty game. The game is going to come down to rebounding and 50-50 balls and we’re on the road. We had to win that battle tonight if we were going to win the game.”

The loss snaps Sam Houston’s five-game winning streak as well as the Kats’ perfect 9-0 home record this season. SFA extends its winning streak to 21 games.

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