GoBearkats.com / Brandon K. Scott / SHSU Athletics / Huntsville — Julius Brown hit two free throws with 14 seconds remaining to account for the winning points as Toledo defeated Sam Houston State 59-58 in a men’s basketball non-conference game Saturday at Johnson Coliseum.
Toledo (13-14) was led by Rian Pearson and Julius Brown, both with 12 points. Pearson led the Rockets under the boards with 12 rebounds.
Sam Houston (11-16) was paced by Steven Werner with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Konner Tucker added 14 points and Marcus James totaled 10 and pulled down nine rebounds for the Bearkats.came down to final possessions and who would make plays at the end.
The Bearkats did that, but the Rockets did a little more.
“It was just a back-and-forth type of game,” Sam Houston head coach Jason Hooten said. “We had a few chances to go ahead and take a lead. We drove to the basket, missed a shot or didn’t get a call and missed some free throws. We had a travel, missed a 3.
“We executed, we just didn’t make a shot or make a play and they did.”
The Kats trailed by 11 points in the first half as the result of a 9-1 run by Toledo, but responded with a 9-0 run of their own which rolled over from the first half into the second.
In the final period, Toledo led narrowly and Sam Houston even took the lead back three times. With just under three minutes left to play, the game was tied at 51 when Rockets forward Curtis Dennis gave Toledo a two-point lead.
Darius Gatson hit his only basket of the night to tie it again, but Dennis was ready to answer with one more shot.
The Toledo senior, who averaged 24.5 points per game for Gulf Shores Academy in Houston five years ago, caught the ball on a curl and hit a fade-away jumper as the shot clock expired.
For the Rockets, that basket gave them a 55-53 lead with 1:38 remaining and they never let it go.
“You got to give him credit,” Hooten said of Dennis’ late-game shot-clock beater. “The guy made a play, we played great defense on him and he just made a shot and that was the difference in the game.”
Konner Tucker and Steve Werner scored 14 points apiece to lead the Kats in the loss. Werner recorded another double-double with 11 rebounds, a game-high. Senior Marcus James added 10 points and nine boards.
Toledo was led by the precision of Reese Holliday, who scored 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Julius Brown and Rian Pearson scored 12 points each, while Dennis had all eight of his points in the second half, none more pivotal than his last four.
Sam Houston’s point guards played an efficient game. Gatson had seven assists and only two turnovers. Aaron Harwell came off the bench and dished out five assists with no turnovers. Gatson and Harwell scored just two points between the two of them.
Sophomore DeMarcus Gatlin, one of the Kats’ top scorers who came in averaging 10 points a game, scored seven points and struggled to finish at the rim. Gatlin split a pair of free throws with 15.6 seconds left to play.
Making both of them would have tied the game at 57 and Sam Houston would not have been forced to foul on the following defensive possession.
Hooten admitted after the game that he doesn’t have strong feelings about the Bracketbusters, one way or another. However, he would like to see them played in the pre-season so teams can focus on conference action at the end of the schedule.
He took the “glass is half full” approach in regards to how this loss will impact the team and what the Kats will do with these four conference games remaining.
“In the end, the way it’s supposed to work in basketball is you win your fair share of (close games) and I don’t think we have,” Hooten said. “So maybe the best is yet to come. You know, maybe these next four games in conference, it’ll be our turn and it’ll be when it really matters and it really counts.”
SHSU plays at Northwestern State on Wednesday night. The Demons (14-12 overall, 7-5 Southland) are tied for the conference’s fourth seed along with UTSA heading into the week.