HUNTSVILLE, Texas (Press Release)- A costly field goal drought of nearly nine minutes spanning the first and second halves proved costly for the Stephen F. Austin men’s basketball team as the ‘Jacks dropped an 72-63 decision to Piney Woods rival Sam Houston State inside Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum Thursday night.
Leon Gilmore III put in five of his team-high 15 points through the game’s final two minutes and Dallas Cameron added five of his 10 with 60 seconds left that cut the Bearkats’ 12-point lead to 69-63, with 24 seconds left, but the Bearkats hit three free throws in those final ticks to maintain their one-game lead for first place in the league standings.
TJ Holyfield added 12 for the ‘Jacks, who were hampered in their efforts for victory by a 34.8-percent (8-for-23) shooting clip from the field in the final 20 minutes of play. SFA’s loss to the Bearkats was their first since a 61-45 setback in Katy, Texas, at the Southland Conference Tournament on March 9, 2011.
SFA (21-for-49, 42.9-percent) shot a shade better than the Bearkats (22-for-52, 42.3-percent), but the home squad made use of a 5-for-9 (55.6-percent) showing from three-point range in the final frame to increase its four-point edge at the break to as many as 12.
Setting the tone with a multitude of aggressive drives rather than their jump shots, Sam Houston State carried a 34-30 lead into the halftime break thanks largely to some dead-eye free throw shooting. In the opening 20 minutes, the Bearkats splashed 13 of their 15 tries from the foul line, offsetting a 10-for-26 (38.5-percent) performance from the field in that span.
In the visitors’ corner, all but four of the ‘Jacks’ 13 first-half field goals were assisted as SFA drilled 50-percent (13-for-26) of their tries in the opening frame.
The last of nine lead changes in the opening 20 minutes occurred when Josh Huntley put the finishing touches on a three-point play with a make at the free throw line. That gave him six points, and put SFA on top, 20-18, with 7:23 left in the frame.
Back-to-back layups from Chris Galbreath, Jr., and John Dewey III in the ensuing pair of Sam Houston State possessions, however, put the ‘Jacks at a 22-20 disadvantage and forced them to try and play catch-up through the final 5:51 of the frame.
Once the second half commenced, the Bearkats wasted little time in trying to put the game out of reach for the visitors. A pair of threes represented the primary component of an 8-0 Sam Houston State run in the first 2:54 of the final frame that put the ‘Jacks in a 42-30 hole.
Making matters worse was the ‘Jacks’ inability to get anything to go in from the field. After Ty Charles banked in a layup with 54 seconds to go in the opening frame, the visitors were held without a field goal for the next 8:20.
Holyfield finally put an end to that stretch by connecting on a wide-open corner triple with 12:14 to go. That bucket was the first of two in consecutive possessions by Holyfield as he brought the ‘Jacks back within 10, 49-39, by sinking a layup with 11:43 remaining.
Taking their cue from Holyfield’s three, the Bearkats began firing - and connecting - on their own long-range salvo. Dewey III hit a pair and Albert Almanza added one more for Sam Houston State as the Bearkats took a 55-42 lead with 9:38 to go.
An acrobatic driving layup by Traylor and a subsequent free throw make by Traylor pulled the visitors to within single digits, 56-48, but Galbreath sent the Bearkats’ margin back to double-digits on the next possession with his two-handed jam as 5:37 remained.
Gilmore III and Cameron each hit a three in the final 1:30, but the Bearkats’ double-digit edge proved to be too much to overcome.
John Dewey III put in a game-high 19 for Sam Houston State and although the ‘Jacks held the Southland Conference’s assist leader to just three helpers, he went 7-for-11 from the field. Galbreath, Jr., finished with 12 points while Dakarai Henderson added 10 in the Bearkats’ triumph.
To conclude their two-game road swing, the ‘Jacks will cross the Texas/Louisiana state line on Saturday afternoon to do battle with hated Pelican State adversary Northwestern State in the cavernous Prather Coliseum. ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app will carry each and every second of the clash once it tips off at 3:30 p.m.