HOUSTON, Texas -- The Bearkats said goodbye to 2019 with a bang Sunday.
Sam Houston State heated up to close the first half and carried it over to the second as the Kats bolted to a 75-61 victory over Rice at Tudor Fieldhouse in the final nonconference game of the season.
Senior Kai Mitchell led SHSU with a career-high 27 points and had 10 rebounds, and sophomore Zach Nutall chipped in 14 points as the Bearkats (9-4) stretched their season-high winning streak to five games. Senior Chad Bowie poured in 11 points, and junior Demarkus Lampley scored nine.
The Bearkats built a double-digit lead at 41-29 when Mitchell hit a 3-pointer and scored on a layup as SHSU closed the first and opened the second with a combined 14-0 run. The Kats kept adding to its lead and went up 59-43, its largest of the game, on a 3 by Lampley midway through the second half.
Sam Houston State shot a blistering 50.8 percent from the floor, while Rice managed to hit just 33.9 percent of its shots. The Bearkats also scored 16 points off 14 turnovers and outscored the Owls (8-5) 34-26 in the paint.
The first half was back in forth with Rice taking its biggest led at 14-10 midway through the period as both teams struggled to get any shots to fall.
The Bearkats turned their first-half shooting woes around in a hurry.
After trailing 29-27, Sam Houston State closed the period on a 9-0 run.
Nutall got a steal and a fastbreak layup to tie it with 2:37 to go in the half. Sophomore Mark Tikhonenko followed with another steal which set up a jumper from Lampley to put the Kats up 31-29. Tikhonenko hit a 3-pointer, and Nutall laid one off the glass off a steal by Lampley to send SHSU into the break up 36-29.
Sam Houston State returns to Southland Conference action Thursday on the road at McNeese.