Walker sets SHSU record as comeback falls short

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ABILENE, Texas -- Jaylonn Walker poured in a program-record 41 points and the Sam Houston State women's basketball team put together a furious comeback in the second half, but Abilene Christian was able to do just enough to hold off the Bearkats in a 94-91 win on Wednesday at Moody Coliseum.

The Bearkats (19-8, 14-4 SLC) trailed by as much as 22 points in the first half, but cut that deficit all the way down to just two points in the final quarter before running out of time on ACU's (21-5, 13-4 SLC) home floor.

Walker, meanwhile, put on a show, especially in the second half.

The senior from Calvert set a new Sam Houston State record with 41 points against the Wildcats. She hit 14 of her 23 shots from the field and had five 3-point buckets, getting 28 of her points in the second half.

The total breaks the old Bearkat record of 38 points, set by Sirena Autman vs Grambling during the 1989-90 season. It surpasses Walker's previous career high of 30 points set in this year's SLC opener at Northwestern State. It is six more points than any Southland Conference player has scored this season, and is the ninth most in the NCAA in 2019-20.

That effort, along with a 21-point outing from Amber Leggett and 10-point night from Kiera McKinney helped SHSU nearly dig their way out of a big first-half hole. The Kats forced 11 ACU turnovers and hit 59 percent from the field in the final two quarters, but ultimately could not overcome a 22-point first half deficit that saw the Wildcats hit 71 percent from the field.

ACU got 25 points from Breanna Wright and 17 from Anna McLeod to lead the way. But the key points came from Alyssa Adams who had not scored for the first 35 minutes of the game, but put in a key eight points in the final five minutes of regulation to help keep the Kats at bay.

The Kats were within striking distance after a quarter of play, but the Wildcats distanced themselves in the second 10 minutes, outscoring Sam Houston 25-12 to take a commanding 51-31 lead into the locker room.

The 51 points was the second most points scored by ACU in a first half all season and it did it by hitting 71 percent of its shots from the field in the half, including 4-for-7 from 3-point range. The Wildcats had three players already in double figures at the break and opened up the second quarter on a 16-6 run behind four made buckets from Lexie Ducat.

While ACU was hitting 11 of its 15 shots in the quarter, the Kats struggled to get anything going, hitting just five of 15 tries and 1-for-6 both from the 3-point line and the charity stripe.

Walker did her best to single-handedly bring the Kats back in the third quarter, pumping in a dozen points in the period to trim the ACU lead all the way down to just 71-59 going to the fourth quarter.

The Kats carried that over into the fourth quarter, opening up the period on an 8-1 run that had the ACU lead down to just five points with 7:42 to play. ACU was able to hold serve and even upped the lead to as much as eight with less than four minutes to go.

But Walker got going again, hitting a 3-point bucket and then nailing all three foul shots with just eight seconds to play to trim the ACU lead to 93-91. A missed ACU free throw gave the Kats one final opportunity and they got a good look from 3-point range by Leggett that sailed just long as time expired.

The Kats still control their own destiny to gain its first Southland title since 2013 with two games left to play. They will get the weekend off before hosting A&M-Corpus Christi in the home finale next Wednesday and closing out the season in Nacogdoches the following Saturday at Stephen F. Austin.