HUNTSVILLE – Coming off a nine-day layoff since their last game, the Sam Houston State Bearkats closed out non-conference play on a high note on Monday with an 84-54 win over Texas Lutheran at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum.
In the only game on the slate between December 22 and January 5, the Kats (5-8) had to withstand an early barrage of 3-pointers by the Bulldogs (7-7) before settling in and holding TLU to just 25 points in the final 31 minutes of play.
Three Bearkats reached double figures, led by freshman Zach Nutall’s 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting in just 13 minutes of work. RJ Smith added 11 points and seven boards, while Chad Bowie had 10 points and a pair of SHSU’s 10 3-point baskets on a day that saw no Bearkat play more than 23 minutes.
Xavier Bryant attempted just one field goal, but dished out a career-high 12 assists, and Kai Mitchell just missed his third straight double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Bulldogs came out on fire to open the game, led by the hot shooting of guard Jacob Kouremetis. The TLU guard canned eight of his nine tries from the field, including seven of eight from 3-point range, in the game’s first 11 minutes to help stake the Bulldogs to a 29-18 lead at the 9:07 mark of the half.
But from there the Kats put the defensive clamps on TLU, holding them without a bucket for the remainder of the half while putting together a 12-0 run of their own to go into the locker room 30-29 behind nine points from Nutall and five assists from Bryant.
Things quickly changed in the second half, though, when the Kats hit better than 51 percent of their shots from the field and eight triples. It was still a 46-38 game just over five minutes into the second half before the Kats put it away, scoring the next 15 points – including five quick ones from Bowie – as part of a 19-2 run that upped the lead to 64-40 with 9:23 to go.
The lead would swell to as much as 32 in the final minutes during another 15-2 run near the end of the game that included a trio of 3-point baskets, including one from Albert Almanza and two from Zaqwaun Matthews.
Sam Houston will now turn its attention to Southland Conference play, opening up the second season on January 5 when it hosts Abilene Christian.