Bloomington, IN (Sports Network) - The top-ranked Indiana Hoosiers take aim at their third win of the season, as they entertain the Bearkats of Sam Houston State on Thursday night as part of the Progressive Legends Classic.
Sam Houston State is a member of the Southland Conference, and the team is hoping to make some noise there this season after going a disappointing 13-19 overall and 7-9 in conference a year ago. The Bearkats are 1-1 on the young season after dropping a 73-68 decision at Arkansas last Friday, and taking a 82-31 verdict from visiting Hardin-Simmons on Tuesday night. Before kicking off Southland play against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Jan. 5, 2013, SHSU will play a couple of other tough non-league games against Southern Miss, UC Irvine and Texas.
Indiana opened the season as the No. 1 team in the country, their first such designation since ending the 1993 campaign the same way. The Hoosiers already have a pair of double-digit wins under their belt here in the first week, taking out Bryant (97-54) and North Dakota State (87-61) at home. IU, which won't play its first true road game until it opens Big Ten Conference play at Iowa on New Year's Eve, will face it first true tests of the season starting next Monday in Brooklyn, New York when it will tangle with Georgia and either UCLA or Georgetown the following night.
This game marks the first meeting between Sam Houston State and Indiana in men's basketball.
Hardin-Simmons was no match for the Bearkats earlier this week, as the visitors shot just 25.5 percent from the field, missed 13-of-16 three-point attempts and turned the ball over a whopping 27 times. Will Bond came off the bench to tally 14 points to fuel the SHSU attack, and he was joined in double figures by starters Marquel McKinney (13 points) and Jeremy McKay (12 points), as well as fellow reservist James Thomas (12 points). Michael Holyfield only scored five points, but he was far-and-away the team's most active rebounder, coming up with a dozen boards in helping the Bearkats to a 48-35 advantage in that department. Sam Houston State drained 13 treys on the night, and is shooting 45.2 percent from beyond the arc after two games. Darius Gatson (14.5 ppg) is one of three double-digit scorers for SHSU to this point, but the team as a whole needs to sharpen up at the free-throw line, as it has converted just 17-of-29 (.586) chances thus far.
With all five starters back from a team that won 27 games and reached the Sweet 16 of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, Indiana is as talented and well-rounded as they come. All-America candidate Cody Zeller is off to a sensational start, as he averages 20.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. He is shooting a gaudy 72.7 percent from the floor, but needs to be more accurate at the charity stripe where he has gone just 8-of-16. Four others average double digits in the scoring column, and the team as a whole is hitting 51.8 percent of its field goal attempts and owns a +14.5 rebounding advantage. Defensively, coach Tom Crean's club is allowing foes to connect on only 36.4 percent of their total shots, which includes a dismal 24.5 percent from three-point range, and those same opponents have turned the ball over a total of 34 times. Zeller poured in 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds to pace the Hoosiers in their recent win over North Dakota State. Indiana shot 48.3 percent from the field, nailed nine triples, claimed a 41-29 edge on the glass, and outscored the Bison at the foul line, 22-7.