HUNTSVILLE, Texas - Just a week into the Southland Conference basketball race, only four of 10 teams remain unbeaten and two collide Monday night when Northwestern State visits Sam Houston State.
The Demons are 8-4 overall, 2-0 in the conference and have a three-game win streak. They whipped Lamar 86-58 Saturday afternoon. The Bearkats (8-5, 1-0) have won five in a row, including a Friday night 61-57 win at home over in-state Southland rival Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and are 6-1 at Johnson Coliseum.
Tipoff is slated for 7:45 after a 5:30 women's matchup between the schools. The Bearkats won their last meeting with the Demons 50-37 last Feb. 22 in a historically-awful shooting night for NSU, which set an NCAA record for 3-point futility by missing all 26 of its 3-point shots while making just 19.7 overall and 44 percent on free throws.
Now the Demons are among NCAA leaders in scoring (second, now averaging 84.8 points per game) and 36th in shooting aim (46.5 percent) while also ranking 14th in blocked shots (5.9 average), 33rd in steals (9.5 average) and 74th in 3-point shooting defense (30.2 percent) along with standing second in the Southland Conference in field goal defense (giving up only 39.9 percent aim).
Five Demons have scored at least 20 points at least once, with four averaging in double figures: junior forward DeQuan Hicks (13.8), senior guard Shamir Davis (13.1), redshirt freshman guard Jalan West (12.5) and senior forward James Hulbin (10.8), who leads NSU in rebounding (6.8 per game) just ahead of Hicks (6.6).
Like Northwestern, which has 10 players averaging 15 minutes per game and eight who have scored in double figures, Sam Houston State has a deep playing rotation with 12 players averaging at least 15 minutes per game. None are scoring in double figures, although nearly a third of the Bearkats' baskets (89 of 293) have been 3-pointers with four players owning at least a dozen.
The game broadcast will be carried by the Demon Sports Network, flag shipped by 100.7 FM KZBL in Natchitoches and including 92.1 KSYR FM in Shreveport and 99.9 KTEZ FM in Many. The audio will be streamed free on the NSUDemons.com website.
It will be the fifth game in nine days for Northwestern in a stretch of seven contests in two weeks.
The contest tips off a three-game stretch on the road for NSU, which will visit another league unbeaten, Oral Roberts, on Thursday night before playing Saturday afternoon at much-improved Central Arkansas. The Demons' next home game is Thursday, Jan. 17 against Nicholls State in Prather Coliseum.