HUNTSVILLE, Texas — The second-best 3-point shooting team in the Southland Conference outshot the No. 1 3-point shooting team Thursday night at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum.
Sam Houston State connected on 7 of 17 from beyond the arc and added 16 points at the free-throw line for a 63-52 victory over the University of Central Arkansas Bears. The Bearkats improved to 11-6 overall and 4-1; UCA dropped to 5-10 and 0-5.
After trailing by as much as 14 points in the second half, the Bears put together a late run and cut the margin to 58-52 on a steal at midcourt and slam dunk by LaQuentin Miles with 1:26 left. But Paul Baxter made four consecutive at the free-throw line for a 62-52 lead with 30.6 to play.
Tthe Bearkats were just five of eight from the line in the final minute, but the Bears went scoreless over the final 1:25 after closing to within six. SHSU freshman guard Paul Baxter was nine of nine at the line and finished with 19 points, after averaging just 6.0 points per game entering the game.
“It was the same old song, like a broken record, getting down early in the game," said UCA head coach Corliss Williamson. “That’s definitely something we have to take a look at. We have to find a way to start the game off better.
“But I thought Sam Houston really did a good job, particularly defensively. I thought coach (Jason) Hooten really had his team ready to play. They are tough defensively, they are physical. And our guys just couldn’t match that."
The Bearkats were 5 of 10 from three-point range in the first half to take a 31-24 halftime lead. UCA shot 38.5 percent from the field and fell behind by as much as 11 points midway through the half. But a 12-2 run by the Bears, aided by 3-pointers from Ryan Williams and Daouda Berete, got UCA back within 18-17 with 6:16 to play.
But SHSU came back with a 13-4 run of its own to push its lead back to 31-21 with 1:30 to play in the half. Jordan Harks scored inside and Robert Crawford made 1 of 2 at the free-throw line to close the gap to seven points at the break.
Every time the Bears looked like they had the momentum in the second half, the Bearkats would make another three-pointer. After Crawford scored from beyond the arc to make it 34-29 and freshman Terrell Brown scored twice inside, SHSU got consecutive threes from Paul Baxter and Nathaniel Mason.
“It’s disappointing knowing we can play better,’"said Williamson. “We know we can play better but tonight we didn’t come in and take care of business. We have to accept the challenge."
Miles topped the Bears with 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals. Garner, the fifth-leading scorer in the SLC, finished with just six points and was held to single digits for the second time in three games. Crawford, the top 3-point shooter in the league, went 1 for 5 and finished with eight points.
The Bears play at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at 2:30 Saturday.