Bearkats looking to make a mark in Katy

The Sam Houston men’s (19-8 overall, 13-3 conference) and women’s (13-7 overall, 9-5 conference) basketball teams each ended their regular seasons with losses to the Stephen F. Austin University Lumberjacks.

Their attention is now turned to Katy, Texas and the Merrell Center as they both hold the No. 3 seed in the Southland Conference tournament, and both possess a first and second-round bye.

Photo courtesy of Leila De La Cruz

Should the men have outlasted the Lumberjacks at home, they would have been regular-season Southland champions as well as the number one seed in Katy. Their 5-point loss was only the third conference loss of the season and second to SFA.

The Bearkats got a strong performance from true freshman guard Bryce Monroe who finished with 24 points, but it was not enough as the Bearkats ultimately lost 64-59. The Bearkats now look forward to the Southland tournament where they sit in the third round awaiting the winner of Lamar University, and the winner of the first-round matchup of the University of the Incarnate Word and Houston Baptist University. Should they win, Abilene Christian University is sitting in the semifinal game, waiting on the winner.

The Bearkats split with the Wildcats this year, with both teams winning at home. Junior guard Zach Nutall is the Bearkats leading scorer and is looking to lead Sam Houston to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010. He is averaging 18.9 points per game, which is tied for the league lead.

Sam Houston men’s basketball team head coach Jason Hooten did not seem too deterred after the loss to rival SFA Saturday, instead, Hooten had a mindset of the next game up.

“We’ve been a pretty resilient team all season long,” Hooten said. “So, our mindset moving forward is to go to Katy and win three in a row. We will start that process in practice this week as we prepare for our ultimate goal of going to the NCAA Tournament.”

Photo courtesy of Leila De La Cruz

On the women’s side, the Bearkats will face the winner out of Nicholls University and the winner of the Incarnate Word and Abilene Christian matchup. Should they win and reach the semi-finals, the Southeastern Louisiana Lady Lions will be waiting on them.

Junior forward Amber Leggett is looking to lead the Bearkats to new heights, as she leads the conference in scoring with 19.4 points per game. Leggett is the go-to and the spark plug for the team and hopes to lead the Bearkats to their first SLC Tournament Championship game appearance since 2016.

Women’s basketball head coach Ravon Justice had a similar mindset as Hooten for her team.

“It’s a fresh start for everyone when it’s time for conference tournaments,” Justice said.  “We have a goal of making the NCAA Tournament and that is still attainable. We have played well lately, but it’s anyone’s game in Katy. We are just ready to get started.”

The Bearkats men’s team plays first at the Merrell Center in Katy, with tipoff scheduled for Thursday, March 11 at 8 p.m. The Bearkats women’s team will play the following day, Friday, March 12 at 2 p.m.

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