January 4, 2013

Bearkats Rally Past Men's Basketball, 61-57

HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Sam Houston State used a late 10-2 run to rally past the Texas A&M – Corpus Christi men's basketball team 61-57 on Friday afternoon at Johnson Coliseum. The Bearkats (8-5, 1-0 Southland) had four players in double figures in winning their conference opener, while the Islanders (1-11, 0-2) had six different players score at least six points in the loss.

Johnathan Jordan led the Islanders with 13 points and added five assists, five rebounds and two steals in the loss. Will Nelson and Hameed Ali each had nine points, while Joy Williamson added eight points and nine rebounds. The Islanders won the battle of the boards, 31-30, but were whistled for seven offensive fouls in the contest. A&M – Corpus Christi shot a season-best 12-for-14 at the line.

Darius Gatson led all players with 18 points for the Bearkats, while Paul Baxter (13), DeMarcus Gatlin (12) and Nathaniel Mason (10) also finished in double figures. Terrance Motley had eight rebounds to lead SHSU.

Early on, the Islanders ran into significant foul trouble to find themselves in an early hole. Jordan was whistled for an offensive foul and then a touch foul in the first 1:30 of the contest, and two early fouls and a technical on Nelson left him with three fouls just over five minutes into the game. Still, A&M – Corpus Christi battled tough, keeping the Bearkats close with a 14-13 SHSU lead at the 10:04 mark. 

The Bearkats got their first decisive lead with five straight points from Baxter that launched a 7-1 run for a 21-14 Bearkats lead. After the teams traded baskets, Cole Martinez delivered a key three-point play to cut into the lead. But SHSU got four straight points before James King's jumper with three seconds left sent the game to the break with the Bearkats up 27-21.

SHSU stretched the lead to nine early in the second stanza, but a three from Brandon Pye and a layup by Nelson brought it back to a four-point game. After Mason converted a three-point play for SHSU, the Islanders ran off seven straight points, triggered by a second Pye triple, to knot the score at 35-all. After Jordan converted a free throw and Joy Williamson buried a jumper, the Islanders found themselves ahead 38-35 at the 12:15 mark. 

For the next seven minutes, both teams delivered punches, with neither side willing to succumb to the other. But after an Ali three-ball made it 49-46, the home squad embarked on the crucial rally for their biggest lead in quite some time, at 56-51 with 1:45 to go. The Islanders cut the deficit to three in the final 30 seconds, and Jordan got a defensive rebound on a crucial missed jumper by Darius Gatson. The point guard tried to catch the defense off balance, driving all the way to the basket, but his layup rolled off the rim and James Thomas came up with the rebound. From there, SHSU was able to convert its free throws to hold on for the four-point victory.

The Islanders return to action on Thursday, Jan. 10, when they travel to McNeese State for a contest against the Cowboys. The game, which will be a doubleheader with the women, is tentatively scheduled for an 8 p.m. tipoff and will be televised on ESPN3 and it will also be carried live on NewsRadio 1360 KKTX.