UCA’s men’s basketball team struggled to break double digits in the first 15 minutes of its 70-42 loss to the Southland Conference’s No. 1 team, the Sam Houston State University Bearkats, on Feb. 21 at home.
Freshman guard Thatch Unruh said the team didn’t play like it wanted to.
“We just didn’t come with the right mindset,” he said. “We weren’t ready to play for some reason.”
The game started off with a bang when the Bearkats (22-5, 13-1 SLC) won the opening tipoff and scored the game’s first points on an alley-oop from senior guard DeMarcus Gatlin to senior center Michael Holyfield.
Turnovers brought the Bears (1-23, 1-12 SLC) trouble early in the game, causing SHSU to jump to an 8-0 lead.
SHSU held UCA scoreless for the game’s first three minutes and 55 seconds, until junior center Jake Zuilhof hit one of two free throws, bringing the score to 8-1.
The Bearkats struck back with a jumper and an and-one by sophomore forward Aurimas Majaruskas, bringing the score to 11-1.
Following a media timeout, Zuilhof made a jumper, cutting SHSU’s lead to eight before senior guard Jabari Peters forced a turnover and made a layup on a fast break, bringing the score to 13-3.
The Bearkats continued their 9-0 run until the 10:51 mark when UCA freshman guard Jordan Howard hit a mid-range jumper, bringing the score to 20-5 in SHSU’s favor.
SHSU built its lead to 28 points with two minutes and 44 seconds left in the first half on a jumper by junior forward Sean Goodwin, bringing the score 39-11.
Howard stayed hot despite the Bearkats’ scoring, making UCA’s next four baskets, but it wasn’t enough.
The first half ended with the score at 40-17, in favor of the Bearkats.
Peters led the Bearkats in points in the first half with 10, while Howard led all scorers in points with 11.
Three UCA players scored in the first half, compared to SHSU’s nine.
UCA had 23 total rebounds, three more than SHSU, but the Bears had 11 turnovers compared to the Bearkats’ three.
The Bearkats had a better shooting percent from the field, making 44.8 percent of their shots, while the Bears made 28 percent.
The second half didn’t fare much better for the Bears, though they scored on their first possession on a jumper in the paint by Howard, bringing the score to 42-19.
UCA cut SHSU’s lead down to 20 on a free throw and a jumper by Zuilhof.
Both teams traded baskets until the Bearkats built a 31-point lead with five minutes and five seconds left in the game.
The Bears were unable to put anything together and fell 70-42 to the Bearkats.
UCA freshman forward Boo Milligan led the Bears in scoring in the second half with six points, finishing with nine.
Howard was the lone Bear scoring in double figures, with 13 points for the game. He scored two points in the second half.
Gatlin led all scorers in the second half with seven points, finishing with nine.
Peters led all scorers with 14 points on five of nine shooting for the game.
The Bearkats shot 40.4 percent from the field, 21.1 percent from behind the 3-point line and 62.5 percent from the free-throw line for the game.
UCA made 33 percent of its shots from the field, 25 percent of its 3-point shots and 53.8 percent of its free throws.
Unruh said the Bears look up to the Bearkat team.
“Defensively, that team was pretty good,” he said. “It was a good team to measure ourselves with and see what we need to become on defense.”
The Bears’ end total of 42 points scored was their lowest single-game point total all season and lowest since Feb. 7, 2013, in Nacodoches, Texas, against the Stephen F. Austin State University Lumberjacks, when UCA scored 39 points.
The Bears end their three-game homestand against the Southeastern Louisiana University Lions at 4 p.m. Feb. 28.
UCA will travel to Huntsville, Texas, for a rematch against the Bearkats at 6:30 p.m. March 3.