The Sam Houston State University men’s and women’s basketball teams are set to tip off the 2019-2020 campaign next week. If last year is any indication, this season should be an exciting one for Bearkat fans as both programs are coming off stellar regular-season performances in 2018-2019.
The men’s basketball team is looking to defend its regular-season Southland Conference title while the women’s team is ready to keep building with second year head coach Ravon Justice.
After a 16-2 record in Southland play and a conference championship last year, the men’s team looks to continue its dominance even though four out of the five starters graduated. Having a new young core, the Bearkats were still picked to finish in second place according to the Southland Conference pre-season poll. SHSU also garnered seven first-place votes.
“Any time you win a championship it gives you a lot of confidence,” head coach Jason Hooten said. “We lost four really good seniors that meant a lot to this program and this university. We’ve got some work to do. There’s enough guys returning and enough in there in that locker room right now that have experience what it’s like to hoist that trophy up.”
With the possibility of sophomore guard Zach Nutall taking over the point, fans might see a change in how the game is played compared to last year when Josh Delaney held that position before he graduated.
“I think our guys are really hungry to get to [the NCAA tournament],” Hooten said.
Women’s basketball is coming off a completely unexpected turn-around in Justice’s first year at the helm. She inherited a four-win program that captured only one conference victory in 2017 and led the Kats to a 16-13 record and a Southland Conference tournament berth last year.
“I think the biggest thing is being consistent,” Justice said. “I think that’s the biggest focus. I thought last year there were times we were inconsistent, and it cost us some games.”
Fans will see familiar faces as returning for the Bearkats is all but one player from last year. Veteran leadership will need to be a point of emphasis if SHSU is going to repeat and even build on its success.
“We want…to be more consistent so we can build on the foundation we laid,” Justice said.
The team will continue to be led by senior guards Jenniffer Oramas and Jaylonn Walker.
Men’s basketball is set to tip off Nov. 5 at 6:30 p.m. against Paul Quinn to begin the season.
Women’s basketball starts Nov. 6 versus Howard- Payne and tips off at 6:30 p.m. Conference plays starts Dec. 18 at home when SHSU welcome Northwestern State University at 6:30 p.m. Their first Southland Conference contest will also be Dec. 18 against NSU, but it will be on the road in Natchitoches, Louisiana. The first home game of conference play for the women will by Jan. 2 versus McNeese.
Both games on Nov. 5 and 6 to open up the teams’ seasons will be home matches for the Kats and will be played at Bernard G. Johnson Colisuem.