Despite overcoming an 11-point deficit late in the second half, the Wildcats (17-8, 8-6) dropped another heartbreaker to the Sam Houston State Bearkats (16-11, 11-3) 75-71 in overtime in Huntsville on Thursday night.
Head coach Brette Tanner and his squad were on a six-game win streak heading into Thursday night. With two seconds left in regulation, the Wildcats were up 63-60 before Bearkats graduate guard/forward Savion Flagg hit a three to tie it. On Jan. 8, the Bearkats defeated the Wildcats 65-63 off a buzzer-beating two from Bearkats junior guard Jaden Ray. With the loss, the Wildcats are now 1-7 in Huntsville and sit tied for sixth in the Western Athletic Conference with four games remaining.
“Our team plays really hard. They gave themselves a chance,” Tanner said. “We came out flat and we didn’t play real hard. They were the tougher team in the first half but we fought back in the second half and gave ourselves a chance. We took the lead and probably should’ve won the game but you never know.”
ACU struggled to keep up with the Bearkats firepower and were down 38-28 at halftime. Sophomore forward Cameron Steele led the Wildcats with nine points and five rebounds. The Wildcats as a whole shot 33 percent from the field and 18 percent from beyond the arc. On defense, the Wildcats scored ten points off of eight turnovers.
“I just told them the truth that Sam Houston’s a tougher team,” Tanner said. “That’s not usually the case for us and I told them that wasn’t what we needed today. We needed to toughen up, go out there, get ready to play and start playing ACU basketball.”
Regardless of the ten point deficit at halftime, the Wildcats clawed their way back to a 63-60 lead with two seconds to play. The lead didn’t last as the Bearkats WAC player of the year candidate Savion Flagg nailed a three to tie the game and send the matchup to overtime.
Senior guard Coryon Mason led his team with 13 before going down with a hamstring injury with under four minutes left in overtime. With Mason out, freshman guard Ja’Sean Jackson came in to fill his role.
“I wish he could’ve shaken that last one because he’s a playmaker and we could’ve used him on the floor but it’s not his fault,” Tanner said. “With Coryon going in and out with cramps and Mahki in foul trouble, Ja’Sean came in there and handled his business and did a good job for us. He’s going to be better in the long run because of that.”
Despite Mason’s absence, it was a 73-71 lead for the Bearkats with 23 seconds to play. On the next Wildcats inbound with 23 seconds left, senior forward Tobias Cameron made a costly pass to senior guard Reggie Miller which led to a turnover. Cameron’s turnover forced the Wildcats to foul to extend the game. The Bearkats then sealed the win at the charity stripe 75-71.
“I thought I made a couple mistakes as a coach down the stretch in the last three minutes. The last three minutes are on me, that’s not on them. I made a couple decisions that I don’t necessarily regret because I’ve done it both ways but it was a long decision.”
After the heartbreaking loss, the Wildcats return home to take on the Lamar Cardinals (2-22, 0-13) on Thursday, Feb. 24. Earlier in the season, the Wildcats defeated the Cardinals in Beaumont 85-82.
“We need people to come out and support us on Thursday,” Tanner said. “This team is having a heck of a year and giving it everything they have. I hope our students feel that and I hope they come out and support us on Thursday against a really good Lamar team.”
The Wildcats and Cardinals tip at 7 p.m. at the Teague Special Events Center next Thursday and will be streamed live on ESPN+.