The Sam Houston State basketball team rolls into Louisiana this weekend sporting a 10 game winning streak and a chance at a 20 win season for just the second time in head coach Bob Marlin’s tenure.
First up for the Kats is Louisiana-Monroe on Thursday night at Fant-Ewing Coliseum in Monroe, La. The Indians are currently tied for sixth place with McNeese State and are searching for a conference tournament berth.
“They’re fighting to get in the tournament and also they can still get a home game in the first round,” Marlin said. “The game is obviously important to them.”
ULM is lead by senior forward Kirby Lemons, who is third in the Southland Conference in scoring with 16.1 points per game. Marlin said the Kats also need to stop Mark Keith and Wayne Bransom who have turned in solid play for the Indians as of late.
“Lemons, Keith and Bransom have been scoring a lot for them,” Marlin said. “They are a very good rebounding team because they are tall and lean.”
The Bearkats defeated the Indians early this season 83-66 at Johnson Coliseum on Jan. 23. Donald Cole led the Kats to victory with 28 points and 14 rebounds in the first meeting and Robert Shannon added 18 points and 11 assists.
On Saturday the Bearkats travel to Natchitoches, La. for a game against the young, yet surging Northwestern State Demons. The Demons still have an outside chance at making the conference tournament and have won two games in a row.
“Mathematically they can still make the tournament, but that may change by Thursday,” Marlin said. “If I’m Coach McConathy and I’m starting five freshmen with a chance to beat the team in first place, then I think that it jump starts me for the next year.”
Freshman forwards Clifton Lee and Jermaine Wallace lead the Demons. Lee averages 12 points a game and Wallace averages 11.5.
In the first meeting between the two schools on Jan. 25, the Bearkats walked away with a 76-62 victory. Cole once again led the Kats in scoring with 19 points and Eddy Fobbs added 10 rebounds.
If SHSU wins the two games this weekend it will mean the Kats have swept the season series against seven of the conference’s 11 teams. The Kats have already secured a first round bye in the conference tournament and now are playing for home court advantage throughout.
“We always say that we haven’t clenched any thing and we haven’t won anything yet,” sophomore guard Mario Kinsey said. “In order for us to do so we have to win out.”
Thursday’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday’s tip off is scheduled for 4 p.m. The Kats return home to take on McNeese in the regular season finale on March 5.
Note: Mario Kinsey has been suspended pending an investigation by the university’s athletic discipline committee of an off-campus incident. Kinsey will travel to Thursday’s game, but will not participate.