About five hours prior to tip-off of the season opener against at Oklahoma, Sam Houston Bearkats associate head coach Chris Mudge received a text message.
“There are always opportunities for upsets and tonight might be one of them. Good luck tonight.”
Outside of the Bearkats locker room, not many people in America believed that would come to fruition.
But, it did. And in dramatic fashion.
Newcomer Lamar Wilkerson knocked down a 3-pointer with four seconds remaining to give Sam Houston a 52-51 comeback win over the Sooners on opening night.
“Our coaches did a great job of getting our guys prepared,” Sam Houston head coach Jason Hooten said. “We’ve gone to a lot of these games and come up on the other end of that. I just felt like our guys continued to fight and stay in it. We were within striking distance being about 10 down. And then we got some stops when we needed to.”
Stops when they needed them. It was the name of the game in the second half for the Bearkats.
Oklahoma’s Jacob Groves scored four straight points out of the halftime break to push the Sooner lead to 11 at 30-19.
Up to that point, Sam Houston was 0-10 from 3-point land.
But Lamar Wilkerson broke that spell at the 14:04 mark with the Bearkats first 3-pointer of the game.
Less than a minute later, Wilkerson hit another 3-pointer to cut the deficit to six.
Oklahoma pushed the lead back to double digits on a 3-pointer by Tanner Groves with 11:36 to play. And the Sooners pushed the lead to 13 with 9:44 to play.
The Sooners kept the lead around double digits over the next four-plus minutes. Groves’ jumper with 5:14 to play gave OU a 46-34 lead and it seemed like the Sooners were in total control.
As Lee Corso says, “Not so fast, my friend.”
Five straight points courtesy of a Cameron Huefner jumper and Qua Grant 3-pointer sparked a 13-3 run for the Bearkats.
Following a Javion May layup to cut the deficit to two with 57 seconds remaining, Oklahoma took a timeout.
What followed was chaos.
Grant Sherfield missed a 3-pointer with 32 seconds to play. But Oklahoma retained possession as Sam Houston couldn’t corral the rebound. With 11 seconds remaining, Tanner Groves missed a layup at the rim.
And Qua Grant came up with the long rebound, gathered himself, made a crosscourt pass to Lamar Wilkerson, who knocked down the game-winner with four seconds remaining.
“What can ya say about Qua making the right pass to Lamar?,” Hooten said. “Lamar making a shot that went in with 1.3 and J-May knocking it in. So proud of our guys. So proud of our program.”
— Sam Houston Men's Basketball (@BearkatsMBB) November 8, 2022
Wilkerson finished with a team-high 17 points. Grant chipped in 13 points and five assists. And Wilkerson was a perfect 5-5 from 3-point land in the second half.
“it’s just the beginning. We got a long ways to go. We got 30 games left,” Hooten said. “The bus ride’s gonna be great. It’s a long five and a half hours. My wife gets up at 5 a.m. and goes to school. So, I’m probably not going to get much sleep with my kids coming in and jumping on me.”
Sam Houston heads back to Huntsville to host a pair of non-Division I opponents on Nov. 10 and Nov. 14. A week from Thursday, the Bearkats will face another Power 6 opponent when they head to Salt Lake City to take on Utah at the Huntsman Center.