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.