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March 8, 2014

SAM HOUSTON STATE BASKETBALL — Marching onto Katy

Bearkats roll past New Orleans, clinches No. 3 seed in conference tourney

HUNTSVILLE — The Bearkats are close to playing how they want following an 80-61 victory against New Orleans on Saturday to end the regular season.

Sam Houston State (21-9 overall, 13-5 Southland) finished in third place and will be the No. 3 seed in this week’s Southland Conference tournament. The Kats will face the winner of No. 6 seed Oral Roberts and No. 7 seed McNeese State on Thursday night at the Merrell Center in Katy.

The regular season ended in dominating fashion for the Bearkats, with double-digit wins against Southeastern Louisiana and New Orleans.

It was especially important for the Kats after coming off back-to-back road losses against Central Arkansas and Oral Roberts the previous week, results that kept them from the tournament’s second seed and an automatic berth to the semifinals.

“If we would’ve played defensively on that road trip like we did tonight and the last four home games, we would probably be the second seed. But that’s just how it is and you can’t worry about that,” Sam Houston head coach Jason Hooten said. “All you can worry about is what you can control and what’s on down the road. We’re just going to keep striving defensively to play the way we have the last few games, get ourselves in position and have a chance to go down there and win.”

On Saturday, the Kats held New Orleans to less than 40 percent shooting throughout the entire game. They were also overwhelming in the paint.

Sam Houston outscored New Orleans in the first half 36-4 on inside shots and took a 21-point lead into halftime.

Junior Michael Holyfield, Sam Houston’s 6-11 post player who is having his best season as a Bearkat, had already posted 14 points and 12 rebounds before the break. Holyfield finished the game with 17 points and 17 boards.

Point guard Kaheem Ransom, who tied Holyfield with a team-high 17 points, said the post players have been playing like men all year long.

“It’s been great,” Ransom said. “We had a few lapses here and there as a team, but other than that, we’ve been handling business. This is a great win going into the playoffs now. We should be all right coming up here in this tournament. We’ve got great momentum, great defensive effort. If we come out and bring that in the tournament, we should be all right taking it one game at a time.”

Other top performers for Sam Houston were Terrance Motley, who logged 13 points and eight rebounds, and Paul Baxter with four steals in the first half and one that led to a one-handed jam in transition over New Orleans forward Kevin Hill.

Jabari Peters had a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists for the Bearkats.

“I just came in today trying to be aggressive, look for my teammates and hit shots when I’m open,” Peters said. “That’s what I did. We’ve just had the mentality that we want to win. Today, we didn’t want to lose focus. We didn’t want it to just be a 10-point win against a team we felt like we could beat by a lot more. We just wanted to keep our energy up and build on it toward Katy.”

Oral Roberts (16-15 overall, 10-8 Southland) and McNeese (11-19 overall, 9-9 Southland) play on Wednesday night for a shot at the Bearkats. Sam Houston fell to Oral Roberts 80-73 on March 1, but defeated McNeese 86-81 on Jan. 9.

Last season, the sixth-seeded Bearkats took down No. 3 Oral Roberts 58-55 to advance to the conference semifinals before losing to eventual champion Northwestern State.

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Texas Department of Public Safety troopers work to measure out and recreate the scene of a fatal accident at the intersection of Interstate 45 and Highway 30 on Thursday afternoon. The accident happened on June 8 when a Huntsville man was struck and killed by a car while trying to cross I-45.

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