HUNTSVILLE — The Bearkats sent the seniors out at home in style by clinching a spot in the Southland Conference Tournament with a 77-73 victory over Houston Baptist Saturday at Johnson Coliseum.
This is the 18th straight season Sam Houston State (18-10 overall, 11-6 in SLC) has qualified for the league's postseason which is the longest active streak in the SLC. The Kats have made the Southland tournament each season under head coach Jason Hooten.
Sophomore Zach Nutall led the Bearkats with 22 points, and junior RJ Smith just missed a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds. Senior Kai Mitchell also came short of a double-double with 12 points and a career-high nine assists.
Senior Dainan Swoope scored 11 points, while junior Terryonte Thomas and senior Chad Bowie finished with seven and six points respectively.
Sam Houston State led 75-66 with 1:12 to go in the game when Swoope hit a 3-pointer from the left corner.
HBU (3-22, 3-14) responded with a 7-0 run to pull within 75-73 40 seconds later, but the Kats were able to force a couple of turnovers and Swoope and Mitchell each hit a free throw to fend the Huskies off in the end.
The Bearkats jumped out to a 23-9 lead in the first half. Bowie and Mitchell hit some baskets, and Nutall buried a 3 to put Sam Houston State up 14 at the 12:23 mark.
The Huskies put the pressure on from there. HBU responded with a 15-5 run to pull within 28-24 eight minutes later.
The two teams traded buckets with the Bearkats grabbing a 34-28 lead at the break.
Sam Houston State hits the road to Abilene to face the Wildcats at 7 p.m. Wednesday.