Bearkats Begin Southland Conference Tournament Thursday

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For the fourth year in a row, the Sam Houston State men's basketball team enters the Southland Conference post-season tournament as a top three seed.

Tournament play for the Bearkats begins at 2:30 p.m. Thursday when Sam Houston State takes on number six seed McNeese State. If the Bearkats win, they take on the winner of the 12 noon Lamar-UTA game at 6 p.m. Friday night.

The Sam Houston-McNeese State game will be broadcast live on KSAM 101.7 FM.

The Southland Conference post-season tournament is being held at the Merrill Center in Katy.

Sam Houston and McNeese met in Lake Charles, LA, on January 17. Overcoming a slow start and a stingy Cowboy defense that limited the Bearkats to 34 percent shooting from the floor, Sam Houston State picked up a 64-49 victory over McNeese State. The contest was the Bearkats’ first Southland Conference road game of the season. Shamir McDaniel led SHSU with 14 points. DeLuis Ramirez added 13 points and Ashton Mitchell scored 11.

Sam Houston outscored McNeese 44-27 in the second half after their lowest scoring first half of the season. The Kats trailed 22-20 at halftime. The previous low was 25 points in both the Texas Tech and Central Florida victories. The victory ended a three-year drought against the Cowboys as McNeese State had won the last three meetings with the Bearkats. Sam Houston upped its record to 14-2 for the season and 2-1 in Southland Conference action.

Sam Houston State owns a 22-7 record in 2008, marking the first time in Bearkat history that men’s basketball has put together three consecutive 20-plus win seasons. SHSU went 22-9 in 2006 and 21-10 in 2007. Sam Houston has won 20 or more games in one season 13 times. Five of those 13 years, Bob Marlin was the Kats’ head coach.

The Bearkats’ achievement marks only the third time in Southland Conference history a team has strung together three or more consecutive 20-victory seasons. Lamar (1980-85) and Louisiana Tech (1984-87) are the only other two SLC members to equal the feat.

Seniors Ryan Bright, Shamir McDaniel, Jeremy Thomas, and John Gardiner have been part of teams that have compiled an 83-38 record during the past four seasons. In that span, Sam Houston is 52-8 at home at Johnson Coliseum and 31-30 on the road.

Only the 88-22 record the 1970 through 1973 teams compiled in Sam Houston’s NAIA/Lone Star Conference days tops the mark compiled by this year’s senior class.

Sam Houston has held opponents to under 40 percent shooting in 16 contests, winning all 16 of those games. But when Bearkat foes hit better than 40 percent from the field, Sam Houston stands 2-7.

In the Bearkats’ 18 NCAA Division I victories, they have limited opponents to .362 shooting while in SHSU’s seven losses, the opponents have hit .447 from the field,.

Sam Houston State has held opponents to less than 60 points 17 times this year, winning all 17 contests. The Bearkats are 5-7 in games in which its opponents have score more than 60 points.

In Sam Houston’s NCAA Division I victories, the Bearkats have limited opponents to 56.7 points. In the Kats’ six losses, opponents have scored 81.0 points per game.

Sam Houston State is 14-2 at home in Johnson Coliseum and 8-5 on the road this season. During Bob Marlin’s 10 seasons as head coach, the Bearkats are 110-24 at home in Johnson Coliseum.

Among the 20 NCAA Division I men’s basketball programs in Texas, only the Texas Longhorns have won more games in the 21st century than Sam Houston State. Totaling the nine seasons from 1999-2000 to 2007-08, Texas has won 223 games, Sam Houston 171 followed by Texas Tech 163, Texas-El Paso 155, Texas A&M 140, and Stephen F. Austin 139.

Ryan Bright, 6-6 forward for the Bearkats who led the Southland in rebounds this year, was named as a first team All-Southland Conference selection this week. Shamir McDaniel was named All-SLC honorable mention

McDaniel leads the Bearkats in scoring with 11.8 points per game. He ranks 4th in SLC three point shooting.

John Gardiner, 6-8 post, is adding 7.1 points and 5.0 rebounds as starting post player. He scored a career high 19 points in the UTSA victory. Gardiner came to Sam Houston as a transfer from Grayson County Community College. His inside prescence was been an important factor in the Bearkats’ success this season. Gardiner is from Mesopotamia on the island of Saint Vincent. Gardiner received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in August.

Jeremy Thomas, 6-0 guard, is averaging 6.7 points per game. A solid player each of the four seasons and a team leader, Thomas is an Academic All-Southland selection with a 3.49 overall grade point average majoring in health. Thomas hit two free throws in the final seconds of overtime in Sam Houston’s 60-58 victory over Central Florida in the Kats’ final non-conference contest this year.

DeLuis Ramirez, 6-4 guard, a transfer from Odessa College, averages 9.2 points. He has scored in double figures in 13 games. Ramirez was a two-year starter at Odessa Junior College, averaging 11.1 points. He was all-state for Northwestern Christian High School in Miami, FL.

Ashton Mitchell, 5-11 guard, ranks No. 4 in the SLC assists (4.2) and adds 7.2 points per game. He had a career high 19 points in the Lamar game. The New Orleans, LA, sophomore played for Westwood High School in Austin his senior year after Hurricane Katrina forced his family to evacuate. The family now has returned to New Orleans.

Sam Houston State finished the 2007 season as the runner-up in Southland Conference regular season play with a 13-3 league mark. The finish marks the fifth time in the last eight years the Bearkats have finished as one of the league’s top three teams. The Bearkats’ 21-9 season in 2007 was Sam Houston’s fourth 20-victory season since 2000, all under head coach Bob Marlin

The Bearkats won the 2003 Southland post-season tournament, defeating Stephen F. Austin 69-66 in overtime. After the victory in the conference tournament in 2003, Sam Houston State made its first NCAA Division I men’s basketball playoff appearance, falling to Florida 85-55 in Tampa. During the 2005-06 season, the Bearkats advanced to the quarterfinals of the Preseason NIT, defeating Missouri before falling at Drexel.

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