Sam Houston State Bearkats
- Current record: 1-1
- 2011-12 record: 13-19 (7-9 in Southland Conference)
- 2012-13 Sagarin: 242 (IU is 5)
- 2012-13 Pomeroy: 274 (IU is 1)
- Series: First Meeting
- Head Coach: Jason Hooten (Third season, 32-32)
- TV: 7 p.m. Thursday, BTN
Top-ranked Indiana hosts Sam Houston State at 7 p.m. tonight in its final tune-up game before heading to Brooklyn.
The Hoosiers (2-0) have easily dispatched of Bryant (97-54) and North Dakota State (87-61) thus far and will be looking to do the same against the Bearkats. (And, yes, it's spelled like that, similar to Kokomo High School).
The good news for Indiana fans is this game is on TV, unlike the North Dakota State contest. It will air on the Bit Ten Network, with Eric Collins and Jim Jackson on the call.
Sam Houston State -- who was picked to finish seventh in the Southland conference by the league's coaches -- went 13-19 a year ago but has eight newcomers to the roster, including a handful of junior college additions.
In their season opener, the Bearcats nearly knocked off Arkansas, dropping a hard-fought 73-68 contest in Fayetteville.
In the loss to the Razorbacks, senior guard Darius Gatson poured in 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting, burying 4 of 6 from the 3-point line. Junior Forward James Thomas totaled 14 points and eight boards. The Razorbacks fended off Sam Houston State thanks to a massive free-throw disparity. Arkansas made 26 of its 32 tries while the Bearkats were 4 for 6 from the stripe.
Sam Houston State rebounded with a resounding 82-31 win Tuesday over Division III Hardin-Simmons.
The Bearkats boast a balanced scoring attack through two games. Gatson leads the way, dropping in 14.5 points per game. He's 6 of 10 from beyond the arc this season and is averaging 4.5 assists with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3-to-1.
Thomas (13.0 points) and sophomore guard Marquel McKinney (10.0 points) also are averaging double figures. Thomas pulls down a team-best 8.0 rebounds per night.
Sam Houston State and Indiana had one common opponent last season --- Notre Dame. The Hoosiers topped the Irish, 69-58, while the Bearkats suffered a 74-41 loss in South Bend.
With a 245-156 record since 2000, Sam Houston State is the Southland Conference's winning program over the last 13 years. The Bearkats' last NCAA Tournament appearance came in 2010, when they lost to third-seeded Baylor, 68-59, in round one.
Third-year coach Jason Hooten pulls the strings for Sam Houston State, who also is scheduled to play at Texas later this season. When speaking to gobearkats.com earlier this week, Hooten said the Bearkats are looking forward to the chance to take on Indiana.
"It's exciting," he stated, "to have the opportunity to play one of the most storied programs in NCAA men's basketball. Right now, we're just working on becoming a better basketball team. It's going to be a great experience playing the Hoosiers."
Before the season, sophomore post player Michael Holyfield told gobearkats.com he and his teammates weren't going to roll over for the powerful Hoosiers.
"When we go play those big teams, we play to compete and play to win," Holyfield said. "We're not just going up there for a game."
Indiana continues to showcase its depth, which may be unparalleled in the college hoops ranks. After averaging 18.9 bench points per game a year ago, the Hoosiers have upped that mark 38.5 points through two games.
In the win over North Dakota State on Monday, reserves Will Sheehey, Remy Abell and Jeremy Hollowell combined for 37 points.
In the postgame press conference, North Dakota State coach Saul Phillips summed up the Hoosiers' depth succinctly.
"It's amazing to me, " Phillips said, according to IUhoosiers.com, "they just kept coming at us in waves."
Abell has been a star thus far (as highlighted here earlier this week), hitting all seven of his shots through two games, including five 3-pointers. Against North Dakota State, he was 5 for 5 from the field, making a trio of trifectas and rattling off eight straight points in the second half to put a nail in the Bison's coffin.
Cody Zeller finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, narrowly missing a second straight double-double. Jordy Hulls, who is 10 points away from becoming the school's 44th member of the 1,000-point club, hit three treys on his way to 11 points.
Indiana led all BCS conference teams with 18.2 made free throws per game last season. Through two games, the Hoosiers are getting to the line 32 times a night, averaging 25.5 makes for an outstanding free-throw percentage of 79.6.
Following tonight's game, the Hoosiers -- 4-0 all-time against Southland Conference opponents -- head to Brooklyn for a matchup with Georgia in the semifinals of the Legends Classic, which is being played at the Brooklyn Nets' new Barclays Center. Georgia lost to Youngstown State, 68-56, on Monday.
Around the Big Ten: No. 22 Wisconsin went on the road to Gainesville Wednesday evening and got stomped the No. 10 Gators, 74-56. Florida's Erik Murphy hit all 10 of his shots on his way to 24 points. ... No. 21 Michigan State avoided a second straight 0-2 start with a 67-64 win over No. 7 Kansas on Tuesday. Indiana native Gary Harris played a key role, scoring 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting .... Northwestern won its season opener on Tuesday, picking up a 79-49 win over Mike Davis and Texas Southern. ... Fifth-ranked Michigan rocked IUPUI (91-54) on Monday before doing the same thing to Cleveland State (77-47) on Tuesday.