2019 Southland Conference Tournament tips off Wednesday

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Four teams open tournament play Wednesday, four to join in Thursday and Friday

KATY, Texas – The 2019 Southland Conference Basketball Tournament tips off Wednesday at 5 p.m. CT at the Leonard E. Merrell Center in Katy, Texas.

The tournament opens up with No. 5 seed Lamar taking on No. 8 Houston Baptist in a matchup of Gulf Coast foes, followed by No. 6 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and No. 7 Central Arkansas at 7:30 p.m. to conclude the first round of competition.

No. 4 New Orleans awaits the winner between the Cardinals and Huskies while No. 3 Southeastern Louisiana will face the victor of the Islanders and Bears. Thursday’s matchups are set for 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., respectively.

No. 1 Sam Houston State and No. 2 Abilene Christian earned the league’s double-byes and will start their campaigns Friday in the semifinals.

The first two rounds and semifinal contests will stream on ESPN+, available on ESPN.com/watch and ESPN apps. The championship will air live Saturday at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN2. The radio broadcast of the title game will be on SportsRadio 610 KILT in Houston.

No. 1 Sam Houston State – 21-10 (16-2 SLC) – First Game: Friday vs. Winner Game 3, 5 p.m.
It’s been nearly two-and-a-half weeks since the Bearkats wrapped up a share of the regular-season title and the No. 1 seed, overcoming a six-point overtime deficit to outlast Houston Baptist 119-113 after two extra periods. Led by Southland Conference Player of the Year Cameron Delaney, Newcomer of the Year Kai Mitchell and third-team all-conference pick Josh Delaney, Sam Houston State looks to punch its ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010. In conference games, the Bearkats paced the league in three-point field-goal percentage (.397) and Cameron Delaney drained a Southland-best 49.1 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.

No. 2 Abilene Christian – 25-6 (14-4 SLC) – First Game: Friday vs. Winner Game 4, 7:30 p.m.
The Wildcats prepare to make their Southland Conference Tournament debut after one of the finest regular seasons in program history. In his eighth season at the helm, Southland Coach of the Year Joe Golding led Abilene Christian to program records in wins (25) and conference wins (14) and the first 20-win season at the Division I level. Boasting one of the most intimidating defenses in the league, the Wildcats held conference opponents to a Southland-low 64 points per game and kept opposing squads below 60 points on seven occasions. Jaylen Franklin, a third-team all-conference selection, appears on the league’s all-defensive squad.

No. 3 Southeastern Louisiana – 16-15 (12-6 SLC) – First Game: Thursday vs. Winner Game 2, 7:30 p.m.
After starting conference play 0-3, Southeastern Louisiana went 12-3 over the final two months of the season to storm from last place to the No. 3 seed. First-Team All-Southland honorees and seniors Marlain Veal and Moses Greenwood continue to etch their names in the Lions’ record book as they both placed in the top-five in scoring, combining for just over 35 points per game in league contests. Veal, a back-to-back all-defensive team member, averaged 1.6 steals per game and helped Southeastern Louisiana average the second-fewest points allowed in the conference (66.2) in Southland games. Greenwood is the only student-athlete to finish in the top-five in points (18.1) and rebounds (7.4) per game in league contests.

No. 4 New Orleans – 17-12 (12-6 SLC) – First Game: Thursday vs. Winner Game 1, 5 p.m.
The last to earn a first-round bye, the Privateers dominated in Lakefront Arena with a 7-2 mark on their home court. Southland Conference Freshman of the Year Gerrale Gates started 28 of the Privateers’ 29 games and averaged 8.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. After third-team all-league pick Ezekiel Charles went out with an injury, his numbers jumped to 9.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. On the defensive side, New Orleans held conference opponents to a 30.6 percent mark from long-range, the second-lowest figure in the conference.

No. 5 Lamar – 19-12 (12-6 SLC) – First Game: Wednesday vs. No. 8 Houston Baptist, 5 p.m.
One of the hottest teams entering the tournament, the Cardinals are flying high, having won eight straight and 10 of their last 11. Lamar’s streak includes a pair of wins each over defending tournament champion Stephen F. Austin and rival McNeese, a 35-point takedown of first-round opponent Houston Baptist and, most notably, a victory over previously undefeated Sam Houston State. Along with Southeastern Louisiana, the Cardinals were one of two Southland programs to finish the regular season with a player in the top-five in points and rebounds per game in conference games. First-team all-league selection Nick Garth averaged the fourth-most points per game (17.2), while second-team honoree Josh Nzeakor snagged 7.3 rebounds per game.

No. 6 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi – 14-17 (9-9 SLC) – First Game: Wednesday vs. No. 7 Central Arkansas, 7:30 p.m.
After losing four out of five games left the Islanders’ tournament chances bleak, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi rattled off three wins to close out the season to grab the No. 6 seed in this year’s bracket. Kareem South, a third-team all-conference pick, poured in 15.9 points per game in Southland contests, including 21 in the regular-season finale to leapfrog Houston Baptist. The Islanders’ lockdown defense limited conference foes to a 41.6 percent mark from the field with nearly a one-percent advantage over the No. 2 team.

No. 7 Central Arkansas – 13-18 (8-10 SLC) – First Game: Wednesday vs. No. 6 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 7:30 p.m.
Similarly to A&M-Corpus Christi, the Bears used a late run to sneak into the tournament, toppling defending tournament champion Stephen F. Austin by 22 and edging regular-season champion Sam Houston State and rival Northwestern State to punch their ticket to Katy. Sophomore Hayden Koval, a two-time all-defensive selection, was a force in the paint with a league-high 51 blocks to go with 12.7 point and six boards a game. Senior Thatch Unruh provided the spark on the other side of the court, averaging 17.2 points per game over the final nine games, including a pair of 30-point performances.

No. 8 Houston Baptist – 12-17 (8-10 SLC) – First Game: Wednesday vs. No. 5 Lamar, 5 p.m.
Though the Huskies closed the season on a 7-4 stretch, they needed Stephen F. Austin and Northwestern State losses to ensure they’d be making the 30-minute trek to Katy. Second-Team All-Southland Ian DuBose piloted Houston Baptist on offense with top-10 figures in points (16.9) and rebounds (6.3) per game and field-goal percentage (.486) in conference games, while Braxton Bonds’ league-best 2.6 steals per game in Southland games earned the senior all-defense team honors.

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