Kats ready for SLC opener vs ACU

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Saturday, Jan. 5 • Huntsville • 5:30 p.m. • Johnson Coliseum (6,100)
Sam Houston State (5-8, 0-0 Southland) vs Abilene Christian (12-2, 1-0 Southland)
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Following a rigorous non-conference schedule, the Sam Houston State Bearkats will open up Southland Conference play on Saturday when it hosts Abilene Christian at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum.

The game is set to tip off at 5:30 p.m. at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum, following the finale of the Bearkat women’s basketball game. It can be watched on the Bearkat Sports Network YouTube channel with Matt Trent on the call. Fans can follow along via live stats, or get updates by following @BearkatsMBB on Twitter.

The Kats closed out a difficult non-conference schedule on New Year’s Eve with an 84-54 win over Texas Lutheran and enter Saturday’s league opener vs ACU having won two of their last three overall. Cameron Delaney leads the team in scoring at 10.5 points per game, with Kai Mitchell right behind him with 10.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats have been off to a hot start to this season and are 12-2 going into Saturday. ACU kicked off SLC play on Wednesday with a 68-58 comeback win over New Orleans, pushing head coach Joe Golding to 99 career victories.

The Bearkats lead the all-time series with ACU by a 24-17 margin, including a 6-3 mark since the Wildcats became a member of the Southland Conference in 2013-14. SHSU won the first five meetings in SLC play but it took an 84-77 win in Huntsville last season to snap a three-game ACU win streak that had lasted over two seasons.

- The Bearkats will be looking to win its Southland Conference opener for the first time since the 2015-16. SHSU fell in its league opener last year at ACU, and at home to HBU in 2016-17.

- No team in the SLC has been better at protecting the ball than the Bearkats, who lead the league with just 12.2 turnovers per game this season, while still ranking second in the league with a +3.31 turnover margin.

- SHSU has only committed more than 15 turnovers once in this year - 19 vs Jackson State - and has not turned the ball over 20 times in a game in 23 total game dating back to last season.

- Marcus Harris has averaged 13.0 ppg over his last 3 outings, including a 22-point outburst at Utah Valley (12/20). His career high is 28 points, which he set in last year’s victory over ACU, a night highlighted by going 14/15 at the foul line.

- Kai Mitchell has been one of the main reasons the Bearkats rank third in the SLC with 38.1 rebounds per game. The junior ranks third individually with 7.6 rebounds per contest and has hauled in at least 10 boards six times. He leads SHSU with three double-doubles and enters Saturday’s game with no less than 10 rebounds in each of his past three games.

- The Kats averaged 22 assists per game in their first two games of the season, but had produced no more than 15 in each of their next eight games. However, SHSU inserted senior Josh Delaney into the starting lineup vs Alabama State and the Kats have responded with an average of 23 assists and 80.3 assists per contest in their last three outings. One of those included Delaney’s first career double-double at Utah Valley when he posted 15 points and a career-high 10 assists.

- Delaney, who has tallied 161 3-point baskets over the course of his career, ranks seventh in the Bearkat record books in career threes. He is just 20 made treys away from catching Derrick Preston (181) for sixth.