Sam Houston stays strong, defeats Utah Valley

Jan. 21—HUNTSVILLE — A layup by Mikalya Woods and eight straight points by Kaylee Jefferson handed Sam Houston an early lead that they never yielded against Utah Valley on Saturday afternoon.

The Bearkats would use that momentum to build the lead as they took a 71-56 win over Utah Valley that moves Sam Houston to 4-3 in WAC play.

"I don't think people give this team enough credit," Sam Houston head coach Ravon Justice said. "We fought some injuries and just tried to figure it all out. They are fighting and competing in every game. They are warriors and I want them to keep putting it together."

Sam Houston (8-9, 4-3 WAC) would hang their hat on forcing pressure in this game.

At the half, the Bearkats had forced 11 turnovers and turned those into 17 points. This came in part to the Kats playing sound basketball with just five turnovers in the first half.

While Sam Houston stayed in front, the Kats would have to avoid a bit of a scare in the third quarter. Sam Houston was held to just four points nearly four minutes into the start of the second half.

During that time, the Wolverines (4-15, 1-7 WAC) took advantage with a 10-4 run that would bring them within 11, before Sam Houston would finish the frame with a 9-2 run to end the quarter.

"You can't expect to win big games if you don't take the middle seriously," Justice said. "It can get lackluster out there when you are up big. We just want them to stay mentally sharp."

Jefferson would break out to a fast start with 11 first half points, before cooling off. She would finish the game with 15 points.

Junior Raanee Smith led the team with 16 points in the matchup and missed out on a double-double by one rebound. Her nine rebounds led the Bearkats against the Wolverines.

"I was just focused on trying to get the win," Smith said. "That's all I really cared about."

Those two would not be the lone Bearkats with double-digit points as Sydnee Kemp and Mikayla Woods also added double figures.

Having multiple people score every night is something that Sam Houston hasn't seen in the past.

"I like it," Smith said. "You don't have to depend on one person. Anybody can go off on one night and I think that helps us win."

While the Bearkats shot 43% from the field, they continued to do what they do best in rebounding balls. The Bearkats would hail in 35 boards and turn them into 14 second chance points.

However, at the end of the game the turnovers played the biggest difference in the game. The Bearkats would force 18 total turnovers but they translated to 26 points.

"We try to do a good job defensively especially when our offense isn't going," Justice said. "We are trying to be a complete basketball team. Everybody is so used to pressuring and all that."

But next up the Kats will have a tough challenge at home.

Sam Houston will now prepare for a 5 p.m. tip-off Thursday night where they will face Stephen F. Austin.

"First thing we have to do is show up," Justice said. "The second thing is, it's your rival. I shouldn't have to say anything that makes you get up, they should want to get up."