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February 1, 2014

SAM HOUSTON STATE BASKETBALL: Bearkats crank up defensively

HUNTSVILLE —

Making a commitment to defense this season has been described by the Bearkats men’s basketball team as “the elephant in the room.” 

Since Jason Hooten took over the program in 2010, defensive effort has served as a strength that helped make up for weaknesses offensively. But with the 2013-14 Sam Houston State team being the Kats’ best offensive group since Hooten’s first season, it’s come with some sacrifices on the other end. 

Over the past week, the Bearkats  have found themselves recommitting and getting back to their basketball roots. 

“We talk about it all the time,” Hooten said. “I put it real simple to (the players). If someone walked up to you today and told you that if you played defense, we’ll give you an opportunity to play for a chance at the NCAA dance, what would you do? They all said they would play defense and I said let’s do it. We’re getting better.”

Sam Houston’s ability on defense was on full display in the second half of Thursday night’s victory against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. 

The Islanders, after shooting 52 percent from the field in the opening half, watched the Bearkats go on a 20-5 run while Sam Houston forced turnovers and contested shots at the rim. 

Junior Michael Holyfield recorded five blocks and 16 rebounds against Corpus Christi. 

More teams, more scoring in Southland Conference

With four additional teams in the league (Incarnate Word, New Orleans, Abilene Christian and Houston Baptist), there’s been an increase in field goal percentages this season. Only three teams averaged better than 45 percent from the field a year ago, while six are doing it going into today’s games. 

The Bearkats have fallen off the defensive radar slightly, giving up 10 more points per game than they did in 2012-13. Last season, Sam Houston ranked second in the league behind Stephen F. Austin in both scoring defense and field goal percentage defense. Now the Bearkats rank sixth and seventh, respectively, in both categories. 

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