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Sam Houston stays atop Southland after handing ACU first conference loss



ABILENE, TX – Only two unbeatens remain in the Southland Conference after Sam Houston handed Abilene Christian its first loss of league play on Wednesday night at Johnson Coliseum.

Led by a career-high 30 points from senior guard Demarkus Lampley, the Bearkats (12-5, 6-0) held off ACU (11-3, 3-1) 64-57 to remain alone atop the conference.

“We’ve been talking about winning and we want to be at the top,” Lampley said. “We know everybody talks about Abilene being way better than us. We just had to come out and show them tonight, and that’s what we did.”

Junior guard Zach Nutall — who defended the Wildcats’ big men throughout the contest — finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while junior forward Tristan Ikpe delivered an all-around productive performance with seven points, 12 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and three steals.

The Bearkats led for the final 38 minutes of the game, with Nutall and Lampley combining to outscore ACU 34-28 in the first half. The Wildcats climbed back into the contest, cutting the lead down to two with 14:16 remaining, but Sam Houston answered with a 12-2 run to start putting the game away.

“It was the game we expected,” Sam Houston head coach Jason Hooten added. “Just two really good teams. Playing at our place, it’s a game I think that we’re probably supposed to win, but they’re really good. We have to go to their place, and I’m sure we’ll see them again in Katy (at the conference tournament).

“They’re really well-coached and play really hard, and I like to think that, besides style, we’re two teams that are looking each other in the mirror.”

Stephen F. Austin, which improved to 4-0 on Wednesday with a win over Northwestern State, is the Southland’s only other undefeated team in league play. The two rivals are set to meet on Jan. 31 in Nacogdoches for the first of two meetings this season.