No. 4 Sam Houston State earns Southland semifinals spot, defeat No. 5 UNO 85-63

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Bearkat junior guard Josh Delaney drains seven three-pointers, one short of tying the tournament record

KATY, TX – Josh Delaney helped take down the defending Southland Conference Men’s Tournament champion while almost taking down a long-held tourney record for three-point marksmanship.

Sam Houston State’s junior guard knocked down seven treys as the Bearkats eliminated New Orleans 85-63 at the Merrell Center on Thursday, advancing to the tournament semifinals for a sixth straight season. Delaney had a chance to at least tie Marcus Anthony’s Southland Tournament record of eight thrree-pointers but finished his night well after the Bearkats had sewn up the victory.

“I’d probably say after I saw the third one go in,” said Delaney about when he began to feel his hot hand from beyond the arc. “I kept it going at the start of the second half and that’s when my teammates started getting the ball to me.”

Delaney, who finished seventh in the conference in three-point percentage (.402), helped Sam Houston State shoot 52 percent from long range as he finished the night with 25 points and five rebounds.

With the win, the fourth seeded Bearkats (19-13) advance to face top seed Southeastern Louisiana at 5 p.m. CT on Friday, with the winner playing in Saturday night’s championship game.
“Our guys played great tonight,” said Sam Houston coach Jason Hooten. “They were ready to go, they were focused and locked in, but, of course, when you have a guy make seven threes and gets out to a good start like he did, it makes winning a lot easier.”

On a night where all-conference first team pick Chris Galbreath was held to seven points on 3-for-11 shooting, the presence of Delaney put the Bearkats’ depth on display. Guard John Dewey III added 14 points and five assists while helping to limit New Orleans to just 42 percent shooting.

New Orleans (15-16) shot 52 percent from the field in the first half but managed just one three-pointer while Sam Houston State drilled seven treys. “We couldn’t get stops,” said Privateers guard Lamont Berzat, who scored nine points. “We were clicking offensively but we couldn’t get it done on the other end.”

Almost as devastating as Delaney’s long-range artistry was the Privateers’ inability to establish themselves on the glass. Sam Houston State outrebounded them by a 21-9 margin in the first half with the Bearkats pulled down nine boards on the offensive end of the court.

The Privateers were outrebounded by a combined 45-23, with the Bearkats finishing with 17 rebounds on the offensive glass, allowing them to outscore a larger New Orleans team 32-20 in the paint while also getting 13 second chance points.

Thursday was also the biggest margin of victory by a Sam Houston State team in their opening round game in the Southland Conference Tournament since the Bearkats defeated McNeese 88-70 in the first round in 2005.

New Orleans (15-16) led 3-2 early in the contest yet never saw it again after Delaney’s first trifecta of the evening put Sam Houston State up to stay with 16:11 to go in the first half. The Privateers were able to push within 10-8, but a 9-2 run by the Bearkats extended their lead to 19-10.

Unable to counter Sam Houston State’s long-range accuracy, New Orleans continued to fall behind and were down 50-32 at intermission. The Bearkats led by as much as 26 in the second half and were able to bring in their reserves down the stretch.

Despite the loss, New Orleans coach Mark Slessinger felt good about not only his team’s effort to keep playing hard but also what lies ahead for the program after reaching the NCAA Tournament last year.

“Culture doesn’t graduate,” he said. “Players do but culture doesn’t. I’m excited and elated about what next year has for us.”

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