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Courtesy: Brian Blalock/SHSU
McNeese next test for Kats Thursday
Courtesy: GoBearkats.com
Release: 01/08/2014
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McNeese State, one of four teams tied for first place after the first weekend of Southland Conference men’s basketball action, visits Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum Thursday.

The 7:45 p.m. contest with the Cowboys is a key game for Sam Houston as the Bearkats look to get back into the league race after splitting one of the league’s toughest road swings a week ago.

Thursday night’s doubleheader (the SHSU women play at 5:30 p.m.) is Domino’s Pizza Night at Johnson Coliseum with special giveaways during the evening.

The Kats opened their 27th season of Southland basketball with a 107-104 victory over preseason favorite Northwestern State on the road Thursday. The win was SHSU’s second in double overtime this year.

After playing 50 minutes of basketball on Thursday, Sam Houston fell to defending regular season champion Stephen F. Austin 73-56 in Nacogdoches Saturday.

“The Natchitoches / Nacogdoches road swing is going to be one of the toughest in the league this year,” SHSU head coach Jason Hooten said. “Now we’re back on our home floor. McNeese State is always a tough opponent. Every game is a big one right now.”

McNeese opened its Southland schedule with 69-60 and 82-69 home victories over Southeastern Louisiana and New Orleans, respectively.

The Cowboys stand 4-10 for the season after a tough non-conference schedule that saw McNeese play 11 games on the road including contests with Michigan State, SMU, Texas A&M and LSU.

Ledrick Eackles, a 6-3 senior guard, leads the Cowboys with 14.8 points per game. Kevin Hardy, a 6-2 junior guard adds 12.4 points per contest.

The victory over Northwestern State last Thursday gave the Sam Houston men three wins this season over teams that earned berths in last year’s NCAA tournament. The Bearkats also posted victories over James Madison and Towson, two teams that met in the NCAA opening round last season.

Sam Houston’s 8-4 mark in pre-Southland action is the best start for the SHSU men’s basketball team since the 2007-08 squad started the year 10-0.

Junior college transfers 6-4 Jabari Peters and 6-1 Kaheem Ransom lead Sam Houston with scoring averages of 13.4 and 11.5, respectively.

Other players have stepped up with big plays in key situations in a team effort to continue the Kats’ winning ways.

Michael Holyfield, a 6-11 junior post player, scored a career high 20 points and pulled down nine rebounds in the Northwestern State victory.

Seniors 6-7 Terrance Motley, 6-5 James Thomas and 6-4 Nathaniel Mason continue to play consistently. The three combine to average 21.8 points and 11.3 rebounds per game this year.

Paul Baxter, 6-1 sophomore guard, scored in double figures in both the Northwestern State and SFA games last week and is adding 9.9 points a game to the SHSU effort.

The McNeese game is the first of two home appearances for the Bearkats this weekend. Sam Houston plays host to Nicholls Saturday at 4 p.m. at Johnson.

Tickets for Bearkat men’s and women’s basketball are on sale now online at www.gobearkats.com or at the SHSU ticket office.

Ticket office hours at the Ron Mafrige Field House are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The ticket office telephone is (936) 294-1729.

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