NACOGDOHES, Texas – Jereal Scott hit two free throws with 34 seconds remaining in overtime and SFA got the stop it needed on the game's last possession to hold off Sam Houston State, 67-66, in front of 3,853 fans on Wednesday at William R. Johnson Coliseum.
SFA (10-9, 4-2 SLC) edged the Bearkats (8-12, 2-4 SLC) just 6-5 in the overtime period in a battle between the Southland's two top defensive teams, and needed every point it could get to overcome Sam Houston's Konner Tucker who led all scorers with 20 points on 6-for-10 shooting from behind the arc.
That included a contested three-pointer with just 15 seconds remaining in the game to knot the score at 61-61, completing a Bearkat comeback that started with the 'Jacks leading by as much as 39-25 early in the second half.
Still, SFA got a career-best 18 points from sophomore guard Desmond Haymon – 16 in the second half and overtime – to hold off the 'Kats, with him hitting three of SFA's four triples for the night.
He was one of three Lumberjacks in double figures, joined by Jereal Scott with 15 points and six rebounds, and Antonio Bostic with 10 points and five assists. Taylor Smith nearly nabbed his second double-double of the year, finishing with nine points and 10 boards.
Darius Gardner finished with seven of SFA's 16 assists as a team.
After a tough first half that saw the 'Jacks take a narrow 25-23 lead into the locker room on the strength of 44-percent shooting, SFA came out of the gates on fire with a 14-2 run to open the second half, powered by four points apiece by Scott and Haymon to build up a 14-point lead just less than four minutes into the second period.
From there SFA was able to keep the Bearkats at arm's length, leading by double digits as late as the 8:44 mark, but in the meantime Sam Houston continued to chip away behind the hot shooting of Tucker who finished the night 6-for-10 from beyond the arc.
With SFA up 60-52 with just over three minutes to go, Sam Houston managed to end regulation on a 9-2 run to push the game into extra time. The 'Jacks, after coming up empty on consecutive possessions, got a foul shot from Scott with 27 seconds to play to take a 61-58 lead late in the game, but Tucker managed to can a contested three-point bucket from the left wing to tie it up.
SFA had a chance to win the game in regulation, but Scott's tip-in of a penetrating shot from Hal Bateman was just short and sent the 'Jacks into their first extra frame of the season.
After the 'Kats scored the first bucket of the overtime, Haymon hit his third three of the night to put SFA up by a point and Smith added a free throw one possession later, but once again it was Tucker putting the 'Kats out in front as he knocked down a transition three-pointer with less than two minutes to play to give SHSU a 66-65 lead.
The 'Jacks came up empty on their next possession, but got a defensive stop and found Scott in the lane less than 20 seconds later, who was fouled with just 34 seconds left in OT. Scott knocked down both foul shots, but there was plenty of time left for SHSU as the 'Kats got two good looks at the basket on their next possession but could not convert.
SHSU fouled Smith with less than eight seconds remaining and had a chance after the junior missed both ends of the two-shot foul, but Demarcus Gatlin's scoop shot at the buzzer clanked off the bottom of the iron to give the 'Jacks the victory.
SFA will look to move to 5-2 in Southland play on Saturday when it travels to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to take on the Islanders who have won each of their last two games.