Saturday, Feb. 9 • Abilene • 6:00 p.m. • Moody Coliseum (4,500)
Sam Houston State (15-8, 10-0 Southland) at Abilene Christian (19-4, 8-2 Southland)
Live Stats • ESPN3 • @BearkatsMBB on Twitter
HUNTSVILLE – The top two teams in the Southland Conference will toe the line against one another on Saturday evening when the first-place Sam Houston State Bearkats travel to second-place Abilene Christian at Moody Coliseum.
The game is set to tip off at 6:00 p.m. at Moody Coliseum, or 30 minutes following the conclusion of the women’s game. The game can be watched on ESPN3 with Grant Boone. Live stats are also available, as are updates on Twitter by following @BearkatsMBB.
The game pits the two top teams in the Southland Conference standings against one another with the Bearkats entering with a two-game lead over the 8-2 Wildcats. Sam Houston will be looking to sweep the season series from ACU for the first time since 2015-16 after having held on for a 71-68 win on January 5 in Huntsville.
The Bearkats built up a 25-point lead in the first half on that night, but it took all Sam Houston had to hang on after the Wildcats cut the lead down to just two points late in the second half. Josh Delaney proved to be huge that night, scoring a career-high 30 points, including 10 points in the game’s final three minutes to help SHSU hang on for the win in its SLC opener.
Sam Houston is currently one of just 10 teams remaining in the country with an unbeaten record within its conference. Its overall 11-game win streak is tied with defending national champion Villanova and Pac 12 leader Washington for the third-longest current win streak in the nation, only trailing No. 1 Tennessee (16 games) and No. 4 Gonzaga (12 games).
The Kats have done it with a balanced attack that makes it the only team in the Southland to rank in the top five in both scoring offense and scoring defense since the start of SLC play. Cameron Delaney’s 14.4 points per game in league play has led the way, while his 50.0 percent marksmanship from 3-point range in that span is the third best among all league players.
Coach Jason Hooten’s squad has allowed just one of its 10 league opponents to reach the 70-point mark, and is riding a streak of 33 consecutive games without committing 20 turnovers.
They’ll need that efficiency against an ACU team that would be playing for a share of first place had it not squandered a seven-point lead in the final minute at Stephen F. Austin on January 23. Instead, Joe Golding’s Wildcats will put their 11-0 home record on the line in need of a victory to pull back to within a game of Sam Houston.
ACU and SHSU are the top two teams in the league in terms of turnovers committed and turnover margin, and the senior-laden Wildcats come in with three players – Jaren Lewis (13.0 ppg), Jalone Friday (12.9 ppg) and Peyton Ricks (12.2 ppg) – averaging in double figures.
Ricks and reserve guard BJ Maxwell have been two of the top sharpshooters in the SLC all season with Ricks hitting 47.1 percent from distance and Maxwell 41.9 percent for the entirety of the season.
Overall, they have won three in a row since dropping the 61-60 decision at SFA, rebounding with a win over Central Arkansas and its first-ever win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi before most recently taking down Lamar on Wednesday in Beaumont.