KATY, Texas — Needing four wins in four days to defend last year’s Southland Conference tournament title, UNO knew it could run out of gas somewhere along the route.
The Privateers just didn’t see it happening so soon.
No. 4 seed Sam Houston State jumped out to a 20-point lead in the first half and never looked back in eliminating the No. 5 Privateers 85-63 at the Merrell Center on Thursday night.
Josh Delaney scored 25 points — including seven 3-pointers — while John Dewey III added 14 as the Bearkats ran away early.
“Our offense was clicking, but we couldn't get it done on the other side of the floor and that was the difference in the game,” UNO guard Lamont Berzat said.
Sam Houston State (19-13) made 11 of 21 3-pointers. The Bearkats also dominated the boards, out-rebounding UNO 45-23.
“You just can’t give them that many more shot attempts," UNO coach Mark Slessinger said. "We also can’t miss 15 free throws and think we are still going to be in the game,”
UNO (15-16) was led by Ezekiel Charles with 12 points and Makur Puou with 11 points and seven rebounds.
“It’s frustrating, but we just had to go out there and keep fighting,” Puou said.
SHSU led by double digits midway through the first half and led by more than 20 for almost the entire second half.
The Bearkats will advance to Friday’s semifinal against No. 1 seed Southeastern Louisiana at 5 p.m.
“Our guys came out ready to go and were fired up, focused and locked in,” SHSU coach Jason Hooten said. “Of course when you have a guy make seven 3s, it makes it easy.
“UNO’s starting lineup is much bigger than ours, but we rebounded the ball well. We needed to be the tougher team and be more physical from the tip, and I thought we did that.”
As for UNO, the Privateers will leave Texas one year after clinching their first NCAA tournament appearance in 21 years.
“We had eight new guys on our team this year, and it was a great experience getting here and seeing what it takes to be here,” Slessinger said.
“I’m proud of our team, our culture and the direction we have come to make it a sustainable program year in and year out. Tonight was just not our best night.”