Three-time defending Northeast Conference champion LIU-Brooklyn visits Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum Saturday for a 4 p.m. tilt that will mark Sam Houston’s final non-conference encounter before the Southland Conference men’s basketball race begins.
The Blackbirds from Long Island, New York, went 20-14 last year, earning a berth in the 2013 NCAA “Big Dance” where they fell in the first round to James Madison 68-55.
LIU-Brooklyn boasts a tradition of basketball excellence. Winners of the Northeast Conference title in 2011, 2012 and 2013, the Blackbirds have earned six NCAA tournament berths and played in the NIT 10 times in their history.
Sam Houston has not played since a 77-61 December 14 road loss at Toledo. The Bearkats are 7-4 in pre-Southland action, the program’s best start since beginning the 2007-08 season with 10 consecutive wins.
The Kats own victories over James Madison, Towson, Texas-Pan American, Prairie View A&M and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Senior point guard Jason Brickman, who set a school record with 290 assists last year, is the only returning starter for the Blackbirds. One of four Texans on the LIU squad, Brickman already has 107 assists this year.
LIU-Brooklyn brings a 4-7 record into Huntsville Saturday, but their losses have come at the hands of foes such as Indiana, UC-Irvine, Seton Hall, Lehigh and Temple. The team’s four victories include an 82-79 home win over Southland Conference member Lamar.
Five Blackbird players are averaging in double figures. E. J. Reed, a 6-6 sophomore from Mesquite, leads the team with 12.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per contest. Gilbert Parga, a 6-4 junior college transfer, adds 12.1 points per game.
Sam Houston is led by junior college transfers Jabari Peters and Kaheem Ransom who contribute 13.0 and 11.3 points per game, respectively.
Sophomore point guard Paul Baxter adds 9.2 points and senior forward James Thomas averaged 7.0 points as starters. Junior 6-11 post player Michael Holyfield leads the Southland Conference with 25 blocks this year and is the team’s top rebounder with 5.4 boards per contest.
Saturday’s 4 p.m. game is “Kids Free” day at Johnson Coliseum. Adult tickets are available now online at www.gobearkats.com .
Sam Houston begins Southland Conference action next week with the Stephen F. Austin / Northwestern State road swing on Thursday, Jan. 2 and Saturday, Jan. 4, respectively. The Bearkats’ first league home contest will be Thursday, Jan. 9 when the Bearkats play host to McNeese State in a 7:45 p.m. contest.