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February 14, 2014

SHSU MEN'S BASKETBALL — Bearkats withstand rally by Northwestern State, improve to 10 wins in Southland

HUNTSVILLE — No one would have been able to tell these were two of the Southland Conference’s best offensive teams just by watching them play Thursday night.

Sam Houston State held on for a 67-64 win against preseason favorite and defending conference tournament champion Northwestern State. But nothing came easy to Sam Houston.

The Bearkats and Demons shot 35 percent and 36 percent from the floor, respectively.

It took an above average performance on the offensive glass, a career-high 19 points from Terrance Motley that contributed to 32 points off the bench and lastly, poise at the free throw line when Northwestern made its run at the end of the game.

Just like most of the 10 conference games the Bearkats have won this year, Sam Houston (10-2 Southland, 18-6) watched a double-digit lead dwindle in the second half. Again, the Kats found a way to withstand the opposing rally.

For all the attention Northwestern gets for its offense, ranking second in the nation in scoring with 87.4 points a game going into Thursday’s matchup, Sam Houston was the eighth consecutive opponent the Demons held to 40 percent shooting or less.

“I know they’re a very good offensive team but that’s probably the best defensive team we’ve played all year long,” Bearkat coach Jason Hooten said.

Mike McConathy’s team came out mixing up defensive looks, sometimes with zone or the triangle-and-two. It forced the Kats into a 32 percent shooting performance in the first half, which included going 3 for 13 from the 3-point line. One of those long range buckets even came on a last second heave banked in by Motley to end the first half and put the Bearkats up 34-22.

Sam Houston still had decent looks at the basket and it took some patience to get the offense working.

“I think it’s the zone playing into our strong point,” Motley said. “We play inside-out, so that really benefited us tonight.”

Motley put up 13 of his 19 points in the first half. On the perimeter, Kaheem Ransom and Paul Baxter kept Jalan West locked down for much of the game, despite the two combining just 2 of 19 shots from the field.

 “I’m not happy with the way we played because I don’t think we played our best,” Hooten said. “But I’m happy with how hard we played and we were great defensively.”

James Thomas scored on a layup that put Sam Houston ahead 60-49 with 4:14 to go. It was the last field goal scored by the Bearkats as the Demons threatened.

Ransom made six consecutive free throws down the stretch, even with West finally coming alive to score 12 points in the final three minutes.

Sam Houston pushed the lead back to nine points on a pair of Ransom free throws with 33 seconds left to play. Then DeQuan Hicks knocked down a 3, and Ransom traded another pair of free throws with a three-point play by Brison White on the other end.

The Bearkats came back down and turned the ball over, which led West being fouled while attempting a 3 on the other end. West made all three free throw attempts but the Kats still held a narrow two-point lead with three seconds left to play. Another free throw from Baxter sealed the win.

“We didn’t shoot free throws very well but in the last two minutes of the game we’ve got to be one of the top teams in the country from the free throw line,” Hooten said. “Guys continue to walk up there, even Paul after missing the first one, he made a huge one. And Kaheem made six straight. What more can you say?”

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