Just one season ago the Sam Houston State Bearkats upset their way to become the first No. 7 seed to reach the Southland Conference championship game.
Now, the team has lost 16 consecutive games and is winless this season. SHSU will look to notch its first win Saturday as the team plays host to the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders.
“We come out everyday and we work hard and these girls haven’t given up,” head coach Brenda Welch-Nichols said. “For a team that hasn’t had the right breaks, I’m very proud of them because I’ve been on the reverse side of that [being 0-16] and teams have quit by now. Good things are fixing to happen for them and I feel it.”
The Bearkats have a revamped roster for the 2016-17 season, which contributes to the team’s recent lack of success. Only five players returned from last season’s SLC runner-up team, in addition to seven new faces.
Welch-Nichols says that the team’s young roots has impacted the season and has high hopes they will find their identity with only 12 games remaining.
“We are very young in all positions,” Welch-Nichols said. “We lost Ann Nwosah early on in the second game, who’s an experienced post player, with ACL and meniscus tears and we also have a three player that’s out with a knee injury. We have a lot of growing pains and a lot of growing to do together as a team.”
Guard Morghen Day and center Jasmine McCants are the only two seniors on the team and have acted as leaders to the new Bearkats. McCants averages 9.8 points per game, which leads the team, and Day averages the most playing time with 31.1 minutes per game.
“I expect a lot of big things out of my two seniors, Morghen Day and Jasmine McCants,” Welch-Nichols said. “They have to continue to lead and they have to get more vocal. It all starts with them.”
Saturday’s opponent will be a tough test for the Bearkats, but the game is winnable. The Islanders hold a 6-11 overall record and are currently ninth in the SLC with a 2-4 conference record. However, the Islanders are 0-7 on the road this season.
“I just know the girls are going to come out and play hard and they’re going to keep giving it everything they got, every minute and every second,” Welch-Nichols said. “I told them that we have to start playing in the moment.”
The Bearkats will look to protect the rim Saturday, but one player the Bearkats must zone in on is Islander guard Camesha Davis. The senior is listed at 6-foot-1-inches and has the quickness of a guard. Davis is the second leading scorer on the team, averaging 9 points per game.
“ They love to drive to the rim,” McCants said. “From my view, I’ve played against number four [Camesha Davis] last year and she is still doing the same thing. She has a little jumper in the corner and can hit a floater. Their three point shot isn’t really working for them this season, but they love to drive to the basket.”
AMU-CC is looking to bounce back from a close 49-41 loss to Central Arkansas on Jan. 14. However, SHSU will be playing on only two-days rest. The Kats are hungry for their first win and they believe Saturday is the day.
“I feel like our record is definitely underestimating us,” Day said. “Yeah we haven’t won a game, but it’s there and once we get it I think we’ll get on a roll. We just have to get that first win. We need to come in strong on Saturday. This is a big game and we need to get our first win.”
The Southland Conference matchup will be played on Saturday at Johnson Coliseum. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. CT.