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November 15, 2012

Bearkats with a 'k'

Game three tonight brings the Sam Houston Bearkats of the Southland Conference to Assembly Hall. This will be the second of the four game Progressive Legends Classic that takes Indiana to Brooklyn next week. This Bearkat team brings a veteran backcourt and big post presence to Bloomington for this 7 p.m. ET game on BTN.

Opponent: Sam Houston State
Location: Huntsville, Texas
Conference: Southland Conference
Current Record: 1-1
2011-12 Season Record: 13-19 (7-9 in Southland Conference)
Final Sagarin Rating: 288
Key Returnees: G DeMarcus Gatlin (10.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg), G Darius Gatson (6.7 ppg, 4.5 apg)
Significant losses: F Stephen Werner (10.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg), F Marcus James (9.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg)
Head coach: Jason Hooten, entering third season


To cut to the chase, the backcourt is back and there's a bunch of transfers in for the Bearkats (that's spelled with a k). Six transfers to be exact, and a pair of freshmen, so this is a hard team to gauge early in the season. 5-foot-11 senior Darius Gatson has led SHSU in scoring the first two games, a surprise since he's mainly known as a pass first point guard after averaging nearly five assists last year as a junior. 6-foot-4 junior DeMarcus Gatlin is the other returning starter and top returning scorer.

That veteran backcourt played well in a tough environment in the team's opener. The Bearkats traveled up to Fayetteville and battled Arkansas' full-court pressure and superior athleticism and fell in fairly close one, 73-68. Gatson hit 4-for-6 from beyond the arc in a 20-point effort. The Hogs played without leading returning scorer B.J. Young (suspension).

Perhaps the least of the heralded newcomers has been the best in the opening games. 6-foot-5, 215-pound junior college transfer James Thomas has really surprised thus far. He had 14 points and eight rebounds in the game at Arkansas.

"He's a junkyard dog that will his heart out every day," said coach Jason Hooten after the Arkansas game. "Everything he does is so awkward and ugly that I think it catches people off guard."

Inside Hooten has some real beef in developing sophomore Michael Holyfield. He measures in at 6-foot-11, 255-pounds and should be an interesting test for 7-foot Indiana center Cody Zeller. Holyfield is not a big scorer (5.5 ppg) but is tough on the boards, pulling down 12 this past weekend in a home opener win over Hardin-Simmons.

Indiana assistant Kenny Johnson spoke about Holyfield yesterday.

"He poses challenges with his girth and his strength," said Johnson. "He runs the floor a lot better than you may think he would. I know he made strides last season when they had some injuries. We've been watching him on film and he's a great screener, he contests shots and he did a great job of rebounding the other night."

The Bearkats will likely go with a three guard lineup with juco newcomer Jeremy McKay. He's a quick 5-foot-10 scorer who had 12 points and three assists in the win over Hardin-Simmons.

Sam Houston has hit 21-for-50 from beyond the arc this year (42.0 percent) while giving up just 6-for-29 from that distance (20.7 percent).

"I think they have a team with maybe five or six guys that I consider to be shooters," said Johnson. "A lot of times on film when you are preparing for a scout, you can identify one or two guys that you can key in and say, `We want to make sure we run this guy off the three point line,' but they have a team full of guys that are capable of knocking down shots. Even the guy that plays the power forward position for them is right now leading the team in three point field goal attempts. Obviously McKay is someone who really shoots the basketball well for them, but Gatson had four 3-pointers against Arkansas, so it's just going to be a matter of identifying not only one specific person, but not over-committing our help and staying on their shooters."

Sophomore Marquel McKinney is one of those good shooters. The 6-foot-3 guard hit three treys in the last game and is now averaging 10.0 points per game.

The Bearkats are outrebounding their first two opponents by 13 boards per game.

Hooten is in his third year at Sam Houston State. Last year's 13-19 team was just the second time the school has had a losing record since 2000.

For more on the Sam Houston State, check out the Hoosier Game Day page.

Expected starters and key reserves with last year's stats:


Pos. # Player Ht Wt Year Home PPG Other
G 1 Darius Gatson 5-11 175 Senior Houston, Tex. 14.5 4.5 apg
G 11 DeMarcus Gatlin 6-4 190 Junior Houston, Tex. 8.5 4.0 rpg
G 10 Jeremy McKay 5-10 170 Junior Headland, Ala. 9.0 3.0 rpg
F 20 James Thomas 6-5 215 Junior Duncanville, Tex. 13.0 8.0 rpg
F 35 Michael Holyfield 6-11 255 Sophomore 5.5 9.0 rpg

Key reserves:

Pos. # Player Ht Wt Year Home PPG Other
G 2 Marquel McKinney 6-3 206 Sophomore Houston, Tex. 10.0 2.5 rpg
G 32 Will Bond 6-4 190 Junior Phoenix, Az. 7.0 1.0 rpg

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