Game 32 – Southland Conference Tournament (Round 1)
Wednesday, March 8 • Katy • 5 p.m. CT • Leonard E. Merrell Center (5,794)

No. 5 Sam Houston State (19-12, 10-8 SLC) vs No. 8 Central Arkansas (8-23, 7-11 SLC)
Tournament Central@BearkatsMBB on Twitter Listen on KSAMESPN3

HUNTSVILLE – The Sam Houston State Bearkats will open up their push for a berth in the NCAA Tournament on Wednesday when they kick off the Southland Conference Tournament against Central Arkansas at the Leonard E. Merrell Center.

The Bearkats enter the week as the No. 5 seed in the tournament and will be facing the eighth-seeded Bears, who squeezed into the tournament as the final seed by virtue of a tiebreaker despite losing their final five games of the regular season.  

Tipoff for the opening game of the men’s bracket is set for 5 p.m. with the winner scheduled for its second-round showing at 5 p.m. a day later against No. 4 Houston Baptist.

The game will be aired live on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app with Randy McIlvoy on the call and Jim Haller on color commentary. Fans can also listen live on KSAM 101.7 FM with Kooter Roberson and follow @BearaktsMBB on Twitter for updates.

A win over Stephen F. Austin in the final game of the regular season would have given the Kats a first-round bye, but instead they find themselves playing on Day 1 of the tournament for the first time since 2013 – the first year the league went to the double-bye format. That season the Kats also played UCA in the opening round, and proceeded to win their first two games before bowing out in the semifinals in a closely-contested game to eventual champion Northwestern State.

The Kats will be shooting for their first tournament title since 2010 and third overall this week, and will do so behind three players who recently earned all-conference accolades on Monday. Senior Aurimas Majauskas and sophomore John Dewey III were each named to the league’s third team, while Paul Baxter was an all-defensive team selection.

The Bears are led by Jordan Howard, a first team all-conference performer who ranks third in the league in scoring (19.3 ppg) and leads the Southland in 3-point shooting, 3-pointers made per game and free throw percentage. UCA scored a win over Sam Houston early in league play in what was the team’s only meeting. The Bearkats led by a point late, but freshman Adam Weidenaar was fouled on a 3-point try with 1.5 seconds remaining and made all three free throws to give UCA a 67-65 win on Dec. 31 in Conway.

Sam Houston had won 12 of 13 meetings against the Bears before Central Arkansas hit three late free throws to pull out a 67-65 win in Conway on Dec. 31. The Bearkats had won the first 10 games of the series before the Bears broke through with a 9-point win in Conway in the 2013-14 season.

This will be the second time the Bears and Bearkats have met in Katy, and the first time since the 2013 season. That year the Kats entered as the No. 6 seed and pulled out a 69-63 win in the opening round.

Tournament Championships: 2 (2003, 2010)

Tournament Runner-ups: 3 (2015, 2014, 2006)
Tournament Appearances: 20 (15 straight) (last missed 2002)
All-time tournament record: 17-17
Record as No. 5 seed: 0-1 (85-53 loss at SFA, 2004)
Opening Game Record: 11-8
vs UCA in Tournament: 1-0 (W as No. 6 seed over No. 7 UCA, 69-63, in 2013)