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
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.
“There’s a lot of competition and everyone knows we’ve got a good team so they’re going to come after us,” senior forward Terrance Motley said. “Everybody’s going to give us their all every time we come out.”
After the loss to Incarnate Word last week, Hooten again challenged his players to crank it up on defense. The Bearkats jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, but Incarnate Word picked them apart for the remainder of the game.
Sam Houston responded by limiting a struggling Abilene Christian team to 51 points a week ago. The Islanders made runs in the second half of Thursday’s game, but it was the eight-minute stretch of holding them to just five points that allowed the Bearkats to develop a double-digit lead.
“I challenged our guys after the Incarnate Word game. If we want to get to our goal we have to get better defensively,” Hooten told the media after last week’s win against Abilene Christian. “Scoring hasn’t been a problem of ours and every guy on the team scored today. We’ve just got to get better defensively and strive for our goal.”
The Bearkats host Houston Baptist today at 4 p.m., following the women’s game at 1:30 p.m.
Houston Baptist enters the game 4-17 for the year and 1-8 in conference games. Rob Lewis and Cody Joyce lead the Huskies in scoring with averages of 10.7 and 10.5 points per game, respectively.
Sam Houston’s women’s team beat Houston Baptist earlier this season in a nonconference game 85-68. The Bearkat women had an impressive defensive performance of their own Thursday night, with junior post Angela Beadle coming up with three critical blocks in the final 30 seconds to seal a 79-76 victory for the Kats.
KHVL 104.7 FM will carry a live broadcast of the women’s game. KSAM 101.7 FM will broadcast the men’s contest.