Courtesy GoBearkats.com / Brandon K. Scott / SHSU Athletics
Junior forward Steven Werner scored 19 points and pulled down 12 rebounds to lead Sam Houston State to an 83-49 men’s basketball victory over Jarvis Christian Monday night at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum.
Freshman center Michael Holyfield added 12 points and 15 rebounds while Marcus James scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Sam Houston (6-8) as the Bearkats played their last non-conference contest before Southland Conference begins.
Sophomore guard Demarcus Gatlin and junior guard Konner Tucker gave the Bearkats a two more players in double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Maurice Jackson led Jarvis Christian (2-7) with 14 points and nine rebounds.
After starting the season a bit sluggish with a 1-5 record, the Bearkats have since won five of their last seven games, including a home record that remains perfect heading into Southland Conference action next week.
Sam Houston head coach Jason Hooten said he wasn’t too pleased with the way his team came out against Jarvis Christian, but after a scolding at halftime the Bearkats picked up the intensity.
Sam Houston led by nine points at halftime, yet still allowed Jarvis Christian to shoot a better percentage from the floor – 39 percent compared to 34 percent.
Jarvis Christian did not have a lot of scoring options, though. This is partly due to the defensive pressure from the Bearkats that forced 12 first half turnovers from the Bulldogs and 22 on the night.
After Maurice Jackson’s 14 points on 50 percent shooting for the game, the next most productive Bulldog was Jacoby Joseph who finished with six points.
With an obvious size advantage, Sam Houston looked to score in the paint early.
In fact, the Bearkats’ first 20 points came either in the paint or at the free throw line.
Transfer post Steve Werner was unstoppable for the most part. After knocking down his first seven shot attempts, Werner finished with a game-high 19 points on nine-of-14 shooting and added 12 points as well.
Werner did this in only 17 minutes of action, due to some early foul trouble.
“I think our bigs just worked harder tonight than we usually do,” said senior Marcus James who finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out when the game was already out of hand.
True freshman Michael Holyfield had his biggest rebounding performance of the season with 15 boards, 10 of those on the offensive end. Holyfield actually grabbed more offensive rebounds than any Jarvis Christian recorded on defense.
“He’s a 6’11 freshman who really brings energy to the team,” Werner said after the game. “He probably works harder than anybody in practice. So we get in the game and he did what he had to do.”
Hooten is looking forward to having a thicker rotation at the post positions.
Senior Antuan Bootle has been sidelined with a broken foot since the season opener against Howard Payne.
Junior Aaron Thompson is also out with a broken foot and hasn’t seen action since Nov. 23 against Niagara.
Bootle has a doctor’s appointment today, while Thompson’s appointment is on Wednesday.
Both players could be released for the Sunday’s conference opener against Texas – San Antonio, but Hooten said that doesn’t mean they will be ready to play. The Bearkats want to slowly work those two players back into the rotation, while giving them a chance to get into game shape.
The Bearkats are looking at conference play as a fresh start, now that team chemistry has improved.
“Our biggest thing was just trying to get better,” James added. “Try not to dwell on the past. We had a new team this year and it was our first time getting to play together. I’m not using it as an excuse but our chemistry wasn’t where it was supposed to be.
“Every day it is an ongoing process of trying to get better and trying t gain chemistry.”
Sam Houston still needs to improve from the free throw line, where the team shot only 62 percent in Tuesday night’s win.
Other top performers included Demarcus Gatlin who scored 12 points, which included seven-of-10 from the free throw line. Konner Tucker added 10 points.
Guards Darius Gatson and Aaron Harwell combined for 11 points, six steals, six assists and only two turnovers.
The Bearkats will defend their perfect homecourt record on Sunday against Texas – San Antonio.
It will be San Antonio’s second conference game, as the Southland Conference tournament champions open league action on Wednesday against Nicholls State.
In both preseason polls by league coaches and sports information directors, the Roadrunners were picked to win the west division, which has belonged to Sam Houston in the previous three seasons.
The Bearkats were picked to finish fifth in the west division in both polls.