Kats go for 3-0 start in SLC vs UIW

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Saturday, Jan. 12 • Huntsville • 5:30 p.m. • Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum (6,100)
Sam Houston State (6-8, 2-0 Southland) vs Incarnate Word (6-9, 1-1 Southland)
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After winning each of its first two Southland Conference games, the Sam Houston State Bearkats are the last team remaining in the league with an unblemished conference record. They will look to keep it that way on Saturday when they host Incarnate Word at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum.

The game is set to tip off at 5:30 p.m. at Johnson Coliseum and can be watched on the Bearkat Sports Network’s YouTube page. Fans can follow along via live stats, or get updates by following @BearkatsMBB on Twitter.

The Kats have won three in a row overall, but most importantly have started off 2-0 in SLC play for the first time since the 2015-16 squad opened up with a 4-0 start. Most recently they moved to 2-0 with a nine-point win over Central Arkansas on Wednesday in Conway, the Kats’ first road win of the season.

Now they return to the friendly confines of Johnson Coliseum where they have won five of six games this year and 33 of 38 over the past three seasons. Coach Jason Hooten’s squad led by as much as 20 over the Bears on Wednesday before holding on for the victory, one fueled by a pair of freshmen.

Zach Nuttall had his breakout game as a Bearkat in the win, pumping in a team-best 18 points. Meanwhile, fellow freshman Xavier Bryant added a dozen points and three assists.

Along with being one of the top teams in the league in turnover margin, averaging less than 13.0 turnovers per game, the Bearkats have used the 3-point basket as a primary method of attack of late. SHSU has buried no less than eight treys in any of its last six games, hitting 40 percent from the arc in that span.

UIW enters the game having split its first two league contests under first-year head coach Carson Cunningham. Both of those games came on the Cardinals’ home floor, but they come into Wednesday off a bye, having most recently taken down Nicholls in San Antonio.

They are one of the top free throw shooting teams in the nation, hitting at 80.5 percent from the line as a team. Leading scorer Christian Peevy tops that list individually, hitting at 90.8 percent from the stripe while averaging a team-best 12.2 points per game.

Peevy is one of three Cardinals to average in double figures for a UIW roster that features just one senior and eight freshmen.

Since the Cardinals joined Division I and the Southland, the Bearkats have won four of six meetings between the schools with UIW yet to win in Huntsville. The Kats won the lone meeting a year ago, 85-74, after dropping a game in San Antonio in 2017. The Kats had won each of the three previous meetings.