The Wildcats dropped their fourth straight game Monday night to Sam Houston State, 80-63, in Moody Coliseum. ACU only missed five shots in the second half, but it was not enough to catch up to the conference power Bearkats.
ACU moves to 9-11 and 3-4 in conference while SHSU is now 15-5 overall and 7-1 in the Southland – good enough for second place.
Junior Austin Cooke led ACU with 15 points, 12 in the second half, on 6-12 shooting and 3-6 from the three-point arc. Senior Harrison Hawkins put in 13 points, all coming after halftime, on 4-6 shooting, including three three-point makes. Freshman big man Christian Albright added 10 points on some impressive midrange jumpers and led ACU in rebounds with six.
The Wildcats shot 54 percent from the field for the game, and an impressive 14-19 in the second half. The team went a perfect 5-5 from three in the second half and finished the game 8-16 from beyond the arc.
Free throws were another story for the home squad. Entering the match-up with SHSU, ACU led the conference as a team in free-throw shooting, but made only 43 percent (9-21) Monday night.
Sam Houston got off to a hot start, coming fresh off its only loss in the conference to Stephen F. Austin, and quickly jumped out to a 24-5 lead with 13 minutes left in the first half. The Wildcats battled, but still trailed 32-17 with less than seven minutes to go in the half. Going into halftime, ACU trailed SHSU, 45-25.
The Wildcats shot 38 percent in the first half, while the Bearkats went into the break at 48 percent after keeping their percentage in the mid- to upper-50 percentile for the majority of the first 20 minutes of action.
The second half would play out much like the first, with Sam starting off strong.
Two minutes into the second frame, the Wildcats faced their largest deficit of the game at 24 after a free throw by Sam Houston made it 49-25 Bearkats. The offense, which had largely been absent, picked up for ACU, as the Wildcats went on a 21-11 run to make it a 60-46 game with 12 minutes to play. Cooke and Hawkins led the charge with threes and penetrated the paint.
However, the Wildcats could never find a way to overcome that 14-point deficit hump, as the Bearkats would quickly push the lead back to 20 on a three-point make.
As a team, SHSU shot 12-26 from the three and made eight of those 12 in the first half. ACU would trail by 17-20 points for the remainder of the game and would drop their second home game in a row.
Head coach Joe Golding’s team struggled to secure rebounds and battle with Sam Houston’s big men. The Wildcats lost the battle on the glass, 34-22, and had just five second-chance points, compared to 14 given up to Sam Houston.
Six Wildcats recorded three or more fouls, as most of them came from trying to corral Sam Houston’s 6-foot-11-inch Michael Holyfield, who finished with 11 points and eight trips to the free throw line.
Senior LaDarrien Williams, the third leading scorer for ACU, got the start but only put up three shots the entire game and finished with three points.
Houston’s size was a key issue for the Wildcats on both sides of the ball. The Bearkats had five players finish in double digits, and the conference’s best defensive team showed its strength, especially in the first half.
The Wildcats will look to end this four-game skid on the road Saturday against Lamar in Beaumont. Lamar is 10-10 overall and an even 4-4 in conference, but are 8-1 at home.