Houston Baptist took a 34-21 halftime lead and held off UNO for a 68-62 men’s college basketball win Saturday night at Lakefront Arena.
The Privateers (5-6, 1-1) had troubles in the first half and were unable to execute down the stretch. The win extended the Bearkats’ winning streak to six games.
“Every time you play this team, you know it’s going to be an ugly, war-style of game,” UNO coach Mark Slessinger said. “It’s fortunate for us, because when you play a team like that, it really shows where you’re at as a team,what your weaknesses are and what you have to get better at.”
Sam Houston State (11-4, 3-0) came into the game with the stingiest defense in the Southland, leading the conference in both point allowed (61.2) and rebounds (44.8). The Bearkats lived up to their reputation, holding the Privateers to 39 precent from the field and outrebounding them 45-31.
“We started off really slow, which is uncharacteristic for us,” Slessinger said. “We came out on our heels and didn’t come out aggressive. We didn’t come out and execute defensively, but I give them credit, because they came out on fire.”
UNO cut the Bearkats lead to 60-54 with forward Terrance Syon’s layup with 3:02 left in the game, but they were never able to quite get over the hump in the final minutes of the game. Slessinger said that his team needed to show a greater deal of poise in order to defeat veteran squad like Sam Houston St.
Syon tied for the team-high with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting and added five rebounds and two blocks. Guard Christavious Gill also scored 14 for the Privateers on 6-of-12 shooting from the field.
“We talked more about moving the ball and sharing it coming out of halftime,” Slessinger said. “We wanted to loosen up what they were doing defensively. They were playing really tough and aggressive, and we wanted to spread them out a little more.
“People are going to have scouting reports on us, and they’ve got to be able to read how teams are trying to attack us a little quicker. We’ve got to mature faster to beat some of the better teams in our league, but I think we’ll get there.”
The Bearkats utilized their patented balanced offensive attack to jump out to an early lead on UNO. They came into Saturday’s game with six different players averaging at least nine points per game, and by halftime Sam Houston St. already had nine different players score at least one point.
The Privateers were able to cut Sam Houston St.’s lead to 25-19 after two free throws from guard Nate Frye, but the Bearkats began to impose their will with a 9-2 run to end the half that extended their lead to 34-21 going into halftime.
DeMarcus Gatlin led the offensive charge for the Bearkats with 15 points and five rebounds, but he was the only player that reached double digits for them. Seven different Bearkats ended up with at least six points on the night.
The Privateers, in particular, had major issues dealing with the size and strength of Sam Houston St. center Michael Holyfield. The 6-foot-11 senior dominated the painted area, tallying nine points, 14 rebounds and six blocks.
“He’s an all-league player and they’ve done a great job of developing him,” Slessinger said. “He makes a big difference. He changes shots and it took our guys some time to adjust to him and the way he was playing.”
Now that the Privateers have ended their three-game home stand with a 2-1 record, they now embark on one of the toughest stretches on their schedule. They play six of their next eight games on the road and four of those six road opponents boast records of 6-7 or better.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for us,” Slessinger said. “Each time you can steal a road win in this league it feels like two wins. All the years I’ve been in this league, it’s been tough to go on the road and win against teams in this league. We know we’ve got our work cut out for us.”