Haymon’s bucket lifts Jacks to top spot in SLC
Published: Monday, March 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 4, 2013 01:03
The Lumberjacks regained sole possession of first place in the Southland Conference Saturday with a dramatic home victory over second-place Northwestern State. A clutch bucket from Desmond Haymon with under 12 seconds to play gave SFA the 64-63 win.
It was the second meeting between the nation’s top scoring offense (NWS) and the nation’s top defense (SFA). The Demons handed the Lumberjacks one of their three losses on the season when the met in late January. This time the Jacks had home-court advantage, and the biggest crowd the coliseum has seen all year played a pivotal role in the victory.
SFA lead all but 65 seconds of the game. However, with only 45 seconds to go in the second half, SFA found themselves down 62-63. Antonio Bostic misfired on a jumper, but bench player Nikola Gajic muscled down the rebound and quickly called timeout. The Jacks still had life with 19 seconds to go. Gajic inbounded the ball to Hal Bateman, who then dished it to Haymon at the top of the key.
“I told myself to go strong to the hoop and try to draw contact,” Haymon said.
He did just that. The purple-clad crowd was on their feet as the go-ahead bucket ripped through the net. A shooting foul was called and Haymon went to the line to attempt the free-throw. He missed. NWS had the ball, down one point with 11 seconds to go.
The Demons inbounded the ball and drove straight to the hoop. The ball handler lost control in the paint and the ball flew out of bounds. The officials ruled the ball was last touched by SFA. With 3.7 seconds to go, NWS inbounded from under the basket. Jalan West caught the ball in the corner and put up the rainbow for three. The ball ricocheted in and out of the basket and fell into the hands of Taylor Smith as time expired.
Head coach Danny Kaspar said he wasn’t pleased with how his team played the second half.
“We were fortunate to come away with a win,” Kaspar said. “But sometimes you’d rather be lucky than good.”
For the first time all season SFA had more turnovers than assists (15-9) and shot just 42.3 percent from the field.
Taylor Smith had another productive night, recording 18 points and 11 rebounds in 40 minutes of play. It was his ninth double-double of the season. Sixteen of his points came in the first half. Bostic scored 15 points, and Haymon scored 10 of his 13 points in the final period.
SFA’s lead grew as large as 10 points in the first half, but a late surge by the Demons cut it down to six before the teams went into the locker room for halftime.
Thomas Walkup fouled out late in the second half, forcing Kaspar to put in Gajic. Gajic has seen little playing recently due to a thumb injury he suffered earlier in the season. He nabbed three rebounds in six minutes play. His hand was wrapped in tape, yet he still found a way to get the crucial rebound at the end of the game.
“If there is a hero of the game, it’s got to be Nikola,” Kaspar said. “He had the heart of a lion going after those rebounds.”
The win puts SFA in the driver’s seat for its third Southland Conference title in six years, needing just one more win in the final two games to clinch at least a share of a crown. A win would also clinch the No. 1 overall seed in the Southland Conference Tournament.
Coach Kaspar said the crowd played a huge role in the victory, but he’d like to see even more fan support.
“I want to see every seat filled,” Kaspar said. “I don’t know what the students are waiting for. It doesn’t get more exciting than this.”
SFA’s next matchup is a home game versus Sam Houston State Thursday night.