Sometimes teams can get caught looking ahead to a big time showdown.
Fortunately, for Sam Houston and Southern Utah fans, neither team got caught looking ahead on Thursday night.
The Bearkats put the clamps down in a defensive win over California Baptist. Southern Utah played perhaps its best road game of the season in a win over UT Arlington.
The wins set the stage for a Saturday showdown at Johnson Coliseum in Huntsville.
With Utah Valley’s loss to Tarleton, both Sam Houston and Southern Utah are right back in the regular season title race. The Bearkats and T-Birds are a game behind the Wolverines with three games to play.
Here is how both teams got it done on Thursday night.
Sam Houston 56, California Baptist 45
Barn burner, right? Yeah, not so fast. This game was ugly from the start. CBU led 19-12 with 6:20 left in the first half. Yes, you read that correctly. Sam Houston had just 12 points through the first 14 minutes on Thursday night on its home floor.
However, the game script flipped rather quickly. Back to back layups by Kaosi Ezeagu and Anthony Wrzeszcz were part of an 8-0 run that gave the Bearkats a 20-19 lead with 3:33 left in the half.
Tre Armstrong’s 3-pointer gave CBU the lead right back. However, the Bearkats responded with a 9-0 run to end the half.
Hunter Goodrick’s layup cut the deficit to seven with 13:28 to play.
Unfortunately for CBU, that was as close as the Lancers would get. Lamar Wilkerson’s 3-pointer capped off a 14-1 run giving the Bearkats a 21-point lead with 5:45 to play.
Wilkerson with the steal and 💣 from DOWN🏘️ 💥💥💥
⬆️56-35 3:46 left in the half.#EatEmUpKats
— Sam Houston Men's Basketball (@BearkatsMBB) February 24, 2023
Sam Houston held CBU to its lowest point total of the season. 30 of CBU’s 45 points came from behind the 3-point line as the Lancers hit 10 3-pointers.
Qua Grant had a game-high 16 points. Cam Huefner chipped in 13 for the Bearkats.
Tre Armstrong led CBU with 10 points.
Southern Utah 86, UT Arlington 76
Coming into Thursday, Southern Utah had lost its previous two road games. Sure, the T-Birds had scored 79 and 83 points in both of those games. However, playing on the road has been a challenge for the T-birds.
However, that sure wasn’t the case on Thursday night at College Park Center. The T-Birds did not get caught looking past the Mavericks to Saturday’s big showdown with Sam Houston.
Dee Barnes had 20 points off the bench as the T-Birds led start to finish.
SUU opened the game with a 5-0 spurt and it was enough. Southern Utah never trailed in the ball game.
Tevian Jones finished with a game-high 21 points. Drake Allen had 17 points and Maizen Fausett had 13 points in the win.
.@DeeBarnes22 CANNOT MISS 🔥
— SUU Men's Basketball (@SUUBasketball) February 24, 2023
The T-Birds shot nearly 53 percent from the field and were 9-18 from 3-point range. SUU was also 21-22 from the charity stripe in the win.
Aaron Cash and Marion Humphrey each had 17 points to lead the Mavericks. UT Arlington hit 10 3-pointers for the third straight game since Snoop Johnson took over as interim head coach.
The stage is set for the Saturday Showdown at Johnson Coliseum in Huntsville. Sam Houston and Southern Utah are each 11-4 in WAC play, one game behind Utah Valley for the regular season crown. The T-Birds got the best of the Bearkats on Jan. 12 in Cedar City. SUU hit 13 3-pointers in the 86-74 win over the Bearkats.
— SUU Men's Basketball (@SUUBasketball) January 13, 2023
How will things play out Saturday? That remains to be seen. One thing to keep an eye on…will it be a 56-45 barn burner? Or will it be an 86-74 thriller? The big question will be: whose offense shows up?
It is quite the late-season showdown with the loser most likely eliminated from the regular season title race.