The Sam Houston State Bearkats play host to Louisiana-Monroe Indians in a key Southland Conference match up Thursday night at Johnson Coliseum.
The Bearkats stand-alone in second place in conference play with ULM breathing down their necks in third.
“We need to execute on both sides of the ball,” head coach Bob Marlin said. “Our two teams are very similar. They have played very well at times and have had a couple of poor games just like we have.”
SHSU is coming off a two-game conference split that was highlighted with a last-second win over the University of Texas-Arlington. The Indians have won back-to-back games against Nicholls State and Southeastern Louisiana.
The Indians are led by 6-foot-7-inch forward Kirby Lemons, who is second in the conference in scoring at 16.6 points per game and first in rebounds with 9.6.
SHSU’s Donald Cole is third in the conference in scoring with 16.4 points per game and third in rebounds with eight. Cole is coming off two spectacular performances last week in which he led the team in scoring against UTA and SFA.
Cole said he doesn’t feel any added pressure going up against one of the conference’s top players.
“I take it as a challenge,” Cole said. “We play the same position so we had a little bit of a grudge when we played against each other last year. We talked back and forth so I don’t expect that to change this year. I’m just going to go out there and play my game and get this win at home.”
ULM gives up as many points as they score so the game should provide a lot of fireworks with both teams leading the conference in points scored. The Bearkats hold a slight edge under the boards and should benefit from the Indians defensive woes.
“Hopefully we can score some points and shoot the ball,” Marlin said. “We didn’t score a lot of points this last road trip. The tempo was slow and I look for a quicker tempo tomorrow because I think they like to play up and down the floor.”
Marlin said the Bearkat team is full of depth and a key to victory would be getting production from the bench. Jason Stephenson came of the bench to score 16-points in the loss to SFA.
The Bearkats will need big games from senior guard Robert Shannon and forward Jay Oliphant, who draws the daunting task of guarding Lemons.
“He [Lemons] has gotten off to a real good start and we will try to slow him down,” Marlin said. “We’ll probably rotate players guarding him and go down the list until we find someone to slow him down.”
Tip-off is set for 7:45 p.m. following the LadyKat game against the Lady Indian at 5:30. The Department of Recreational Sports is hosting 25 cent jumbo hot dog night at the game.