Sam Houston’s size and defensive play was too much for the Wildcats Monday night, as ACU fell in Huntsville, 71-49. The loss is the Wildcats’ ninth in a row, falling to 9-16 and 3-9 in conference. Sam Houston State moves past Stephen F. Austin into first place in the Southland at 12-1 and 21-5 overall.
“I thought our game plan was pretty good,” head coach Joe Golding said. “We tried to slow the pace, but we tried to force some things and that led to bad turnovers and easy buckets for Sam Houston.”
After committing a season-high 21 turnovers in their previous game to Lamar, the Wildcats came back with an 18 turnover performance against the Bearkats. Sam Houston was able to convert 22 points off of ACU turnovers and ended the game with 19 more field goal attempts than the visiting ‘Cats.
ACU finished the game at 46 percent shooting from the field and were 7-17 from beyond the three-point arc. The Wildcats were a mediocre 6-12 from the free throw line as well. Junior forward Austin Cooke led ACU with 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds. He was 3-5 from three and 4-4 from the charity strike.
Senior guard LaDarrien Williams scored 11 points in 25 minutes off the bench. Williams was 4-8 from the field, 3-6 from downtown and added four assists in the loss. Senior guard Harrison Hawkins, ACU’s leading scorer, struggled again against the Bearkats. Hawkins finished with four points on only five shot attempts and a career-high eight turnovers.
“We turned the ball over way too much,” Golding said. “That was the ballgame. We’ve done such a good job all season of taking care of the ball; I don’t know what’s going on these last two games. But we’ve got to get that figured out.”
The Wildcats were able to keep things close early on, down only five, 15-10, after a made three from Williams with 12 minutes to go in the first half. Sam Houston would then go on a 22-10 run to go up 37-20 at halftime. The Bearkats were 10-14 from the free throw line in the fist half, while ACU got to the line just three times and converted once. Sam Houston would go 18-22 from the line for the game, with the Wildcats going 6-12.
The Bearkats kept the Wildcats at bay, maintaining a 15-20 point lead for the majority of the second half. With 3:35 left in the game, Sam Houston sank a pair of free throws to go up by 21, and then followed that with a three-point bucket, pushing the score to 68-44 SHSU.
The Wildcats were handled inside on the boards, ultimately being outrebounded 40-27. ACU also could not find a way to control SHSU in the paint, giving up 34 points in the paint.
“They killed us on the offensive glass in the first half,” Golding said. “They’re the best for a reason, but right now we have to go back to what we know how to do and hope for some breaks.”
ACU will be back in action Saturday against Southeastern Louisiana (8-17, 5-7) in Hammond, Louisiana.