SFA Basketball's Eddie Williams. Stephen F. Austin's Eddie Williams handles the ball during a Jan. 13 game against Central Arkansas. (Photo courtesy of the Daily Sentinel).
Last Modified: Monday, February 10, 2014 1:27 PMNACOGDOCHES, Texas — It’s been awhile since anyone in the Southland Conference has seen anything quite like this.
Stephen F. Austin is just taking things one dismantling at a time, and McNeese State was the 20th consecutive victim in a 74-54 decision Saturday night at William R. Johnson Coliseum.
The Lumberjacks (23-2, 11-0 Southland) have turned their arena into a veritable sawmill for visitors. SFA overtook Duke for the national lead by winning its 30th consecutive home game.
“Obviously they’ve got a good home crowd,” said McNeese coach Dave Simmons. “And when you win a lot of games, guys have confidence in themself. They have the mentality they can’t be beat, especially at home.”
With seven games left in the regular season, the Lumberjacks are realistically treading into the possibility of becoming the first Southland team to run the table in league play since Arkansas State in 1974.
“They’re a very good basketball team,” Simmons said. “Their pressure’s good. They don’t take off plays. They play every possession. That’s the difference in the game. They are trained to play the inbound, the tip, they play every play hard.”
For the Cowboys (7-16, 5-6) the focal point is just getting to the conference tournament for the possibility of getting another crack at the ’Jacks. McNeese has three road games remaining on a five-game stretch away from home.
“We’ve really got to put two halves together,” said McNeese guard Kevin Hardy. “We can’t afford to come out flat. Especially against a team like this where their goal is to jump out early against a team. We have to come out pushing, and that’s what we’ll work on in the upcoming week.”
According to the book, the Cowboys came out with the correct strategy for combating the Lumberjacks.
Incarnate Word is one of the two SLC teams to play within single digits of SFA, and did so by sticking with a zone for nearly the entirety of a 76-74 loss on Feb. 1.
McNeese tried the same thing early, only to watch the Lumberjacks splash 5 of 6 3-pointers in the first 4 minutes to zoom out to a 19-4 lead.
“We looked at Incarnate Word and what they did,” Simmons said. “But that’s the sign of a good team. They adjusted to a team playing zone and having success. We had more success when we went man to man.”
The Cowboys turned the tables with a 10-0 run over the next 4 minutes. But that was as close as it got as the Lumberjacks used stifling defense to finish on a 22-5 run in the final 12 minutes of the first half.
SFA forced 20 McNeese turnovers while allowing seven assisted baskets. It was nearly the opposite line for the Lumberjacks, who had 21 assists with 12 turnovers.
The Lumberjacks scored 28 points off turnovers.
Four SFA starters finished in double figures — Desmond Haymon (19 points), Nikola Gajic (17), Thomas Walkup (15), and Jacob Parker (10).
Ledrick Eackles led McNeese with 15, while Hardy chipped in 13 and Craig McFerrin added 10.