Kats to host Islanders Wednesday

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HUNTSVILLE – The Sam Houston State Bearkats are sitting within striking distance of the top spot in the league standings and will welcome the Southland Conference's hottest team into Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum on Wednesdsay night when they host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

The game can be watched on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app with Matt Pedersen on the call and former Bearkat men’s player Paul Baxter providing analysis. Live stats are available at GoBearkats.com and fans can also get updates as they happen by following @BearkatsMBB on Twitter.

Sam Houston stands at 8-3 in Southland play after its 84-77 win at home over Abilene Christian on Saturday evening, a game that saw Marcus Harris pump in 28 points and Christopher Galbreath Jr. another 21 to push them past the Wildcats for the first time in three games.

The Kats are currently just a half game back of both Nicholls (8-2) and New Orleans (9-3) more than midway through the conference schedule, while Southeastern Louisiana (8-3), Stephen F. Austin (7-3), ACU (6-5), Lamar (6-5) and Central Arkansas (6-5) can all see the top in what is turning into logjam in the Southland standings.

Meanwhile, the Islanders will ride the wave of a four-game win streak into Huntsville, picking up impressive wins over ACU and at Southeastern in that stretch. That came after a 1-5 start to league play that included an 82-50 defeat at the hands of the Bearkats in Corpus Christi on Jan. 10, and has pushed them right back into the hunt for a berth in Katy for the league tournament.

Senior Joseph Kilgore has put the Islanders on his back this season, leading the team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. During AMCC’s recent streak he has averaged 14.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. He recently went over the 1,000-point mark for his career and even turned in the first triple-double in Islander history when he put up 24 points, 11 boards and 11 assists in a 10-point win over Houston Baptist on Jan. 27.

Sam Houston, on the other hand, is 5-0 at home in league play and has victories in three of its last four outings overall entering Wednesday. The Bearkats have seen their offense surge since flipping the script into Southland play, eclipsing the 70-point mark nine times in 11 tries against league foes after doing so just five times in 13 league contests.

Much of that comes in part to a renewed approach of attacking the basket as Sam Houston has nearly doubled its output at the charity stripe in league play, attempting 11 more foul shots per game while shooting 74.4 percent in that stretch. In turn, the Kats have averaged 76.9 ppg in the Southland compared to just 66.2 ppg in non-conference play and have upped their field goal percentage to nearly 44 percent.

Harris and Galbreath have been the lynchpins of that surge, combining for 28.0 points per game on average while Josh Delaney’s 52.3 percent mark from beyond the 3-point arc in SLC play is second in the league only to McNeese’s Kalob Ledoux.

The Kats have also gotten key contributions from players such as Abrian Edwards and Josh Boutte, while Jamal Williams has been a consistent spark off the bench. The senior has averaged 10.5 points and 6.5 boards in league play and needs just 12 more rebounds to join former Bearkat Ryan Bright as the only two Kats in program history with at least 500 rebounds and 250 assists for a career.

SERIES vs A&M-CORPUS CHRISTI
Sam Houston is 18-9 all-time in the series with the Islanders, a series that dates back to the 2000-01 season. The Kats snapped a 3-game losing streak to TAMUCC a year ago with a 76-62 win in Huntsville, and picked up their first win in Corpus Christi since 2013 on Jan. 10 when they blasted the Islanders, 82-50, at the American Bank Center. It was the first win of 30 or more points for the Bearkats in SLC play since 2016 and was the third win in a 5-game win streak for the Bearkats.