HUNTSVILLE – Sam Houston State women’s basketball will play 16 home games and face challenging non-conference road tests against the SEC and Conference USA, head coach Brenda Nichols announced on Thursday.

The Bearkats will play five of their first six games at home, beginning with the season opener when the squad hosts LSU-Alexandria on Nov. 5 at 3 p.m. After visiting Arkansas for a third-straight season on Nov. 10, the team begins a five-game homestand on Nov. 17 highlighted by a visit from Rice on Nov. 21.

“I’m very excited about our schedule,” head coach Brenda Nichols said. “We’re playing more at home. This may be the first time in a long time we have seven out of 10 games at home before the end of December. Any time we can keep our kids here, it’s a nice feeling.”

Sam Houston heads to Southern Miss on Dec. 15, beginning a stretch of four-of-five road games. The lone home matchup will take place on Dec. 15 when the Kats welcome former Southland Conference rival Texas State for a 3 p.m. tipoff.

The team concludes non-conference action, visiting LSU for a second-consecutive season on Dec. 27, before trips to Abilene Christian (Dec. 30) and Central Arkansas (Jan. 3) open the Southland Conference season.

“The younger players got a lot of playing time which will help,” Nichols said. “Going on the road to open conference will be tough but we look forward to playing those games. I am excited that we get to play a bunch of home games first and give them that kick and feeling they can do anything.”

Sam Houston plays a stretch of three straight league games at Johnson Coliseum taking on Incarnate Word (Jan. 6), A&M-Corpus Christi (Jan. 10) and HBU (Jan. 13) before embarking on a conference-long, four-game road trip that concludes at Stephen F. Austin on Jan. 27.

The Kats play six of their final nine games at home including matchups against McNeese (Jan. 31), Abilene Christian (Feb. 3), Lamar (Feb. 10), Nicholls (Feb. 14), Central Arkansas (Feb. 28) and Stephen F. Austin (March 3).

The Southland Conference Tournament returns to the Leonard E. Merrell Center in Katy. The five-day event begins March 7 and continues through March 11. After missing out a season ago, the Kats are in search of a return to the event in which they advanced to the title game two years ago.

“We keep telling the players we’re under construction,” Nichols said. “We’re up every morning before six on the track. We want to be in better shape than we were last year. For what we have returning, we also signed some experience. I am just looking forward to what we can do as a team. We have really been focused on being a unit. We are coming in and being energized.”