LAKE CHARLES, LA – Overcoming a slow start and a stingy Cowboy defense that limited the Bearkats to 34 percent shooting from the floor, Sam Houston State picked up a 64-49 victory over McNeese State.
The contest was the Bearkats’ first Southland Conference road game of the season. Shamir McDaniel led SHSU with 14 points. DeLuis Ramirez added 13 points and Ashton Mitchell scored 11.
Sam Houston outscored McNeese 44-27 in the second half after their lowest scoring first game of the season. The Kats trailed 22-20 at halftime.
The victory ended a three-year drought against the Cowboys as McNeese State had won the last three meetings with the Bearkats. Sam Houston upped its record to 14-2 for the season and 2-1 in Southland Conference action.
“We got off to a bad start and couldn’t get into a groove,” Head Coach Bob Marlin said. “But we battled back with good defense and some big rebounds. Everybody stepped up and made big plays down the stretch. That’s the kind of kids that we have.”
John Gardiner had nine points, nine rebounds, and three blocked shots. Ryan Bright also pulled down nine rebounds and made five steals. Sam Houston limited McNeese to 27 percent shooting and forced 24 Cowboy turnovers.
McNeese jumped out to a 14-2 lead in the first nine minutes. Sam Houston went on a 10-2 run to cut the Cowboy margin to four points, 16-12, on a Reggie Rawlins field goal with 5:30 in the half.
Three McNeese State baskets put the Cowboys back up by 10, 22-12, but the Bearkats bounced back again with eight unanswered points to go into the locker room at intermission down by only 22-20. Jeremy Thomas started the run with a field goal with 2:18 to play. John Gardiner added two free throws and a field goal. Rawlins scored two free throws with 36 seconds remaining.
Ashton Mitchell gave Sam Houston its first lead of the game with a three-point basket 1:05 into the second half to put the Kats up 23-22. McNeese went back ahead 29-27 two minutes later. Ryan Bright started a 10-0 run with a field goal. Gardiner’s tip-in gave Sam Houston a 10-point lead, 37-27 with 12 to play.
The closest McNeese came the rest of the way was four points, 39-35, with 10 to play.
Another three-point basket by Mitchell put SHSU up by 11, 51-40, with 5:09 to go. Two free throws by McDaniel with 1:53 to play gave Sam Houston a 56-43 lead.
Sam Houston's two-game Southland Conference road swing continues Saturday at 7 p.m. as the Bearkats take on the Lamar Cardinals in Beaumont.