Rivalry sweeter with conference-clinching possibility
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 10:03
SFA has never clinched a Southland Conference title on its home floor, having claimed both the 2008 and 2009 crowns on the road. Each of SFA’s final two regular season games are on its home floor, both against teams it has already defeated on the road.
Desmond Haymon hit a driving go-ahead layup with less than 12 seconds to play and Jalan Wests’s three-point try at the buzzer rimmed out, giving the SFA Lumberjacks a 64-63 win over Northwestern State in a battle of first-place teams on Saturday at William R. Johnson Coliseum. The Lumberjacks, who led for all but just 65 seconds of the entire game needed every point it could get after the Demons erased a six-point halftime deficit to take a one-point lead with just 45 seconds remaining on a pair of foul shots from West. One possession later, after a key offensive rebound from Nikola Gajic, Haymon converted a his layup and the `Jacks got the stop they needed to avenge a four-point loss in the team’s first meeting, a game SFA led by seven points with less than three minutes to play.
SFA is guaranteed two byes in the Southland Conference Tournament and will open up play on Friday in Katy as either the No. 1 seed with a 5:00 pm game scheduled, or as the No. 2 seed to play at 7:30 p.m for a berth in the title game.
The Lumberjacks will be looking to extend their streak of 59 consecutive games of holding opponents under 70 points. SFA went all of 2011-12 without allowing 70 points to an opponent and has done so in the first 27 games of this season.
The Jacks enter Saturday with a 13-0 home mark, having won 16 games in a row at William R. Johnson Coliseum, a mark tied for sixth best in the country.
SFA and Wisconsin are the only two programs in the nation to be ranked in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense each of the last five seasons.
Taylor Smith has become SFA’s all-time shot blocker with 122 for his career
SFA is 38-8 since the beginning of the 2012 calendar year.
The Lumberjacks enter Saturday’s game averaging just 50.6 points allowed per game, the lowest mark in the country. No team in the nation has ended the year allowing an average of less than 50 points per game since the 1992-93 Princeton Tigers.
The Bearkats are SFA’s longest-tenured opponent, with this set to be the 159th meeting between the teams. The ‘Jacks trail the all-time series by just three games, but did sweep the Kats in three games last year and won the first meeting this season. A win would give SFA its first five-game win streak over the Kats since winning six in a row from 1994 to 1997.
SFA is just one win away from claiming its third Southland Conference title, all of which will have come under Danny Kaspar and each in the last six seasons. The Lumberjacks previously claimed titles in both the 2007-08 (26-6, 13-3 SLC) and 2008-09 (24-8, 13-3 SLC) seasons, but this could be be the most dominating run of the three as the ‘Jacks enter the final two games of the regular season with just two losses in its first 16 league games.
With two more wins this season, SFA would surpass the 2007-08 squad’s 26 wins as the most for the program since joining Division I for the 1986-97 season. The school record is 31 wins set by the 1971-72 Lumberjacks who went 31-3 and captured the Lone Star Conference championship.
SFA dropped just its third game of the season when it fell at Southeastern Louisiana, but still ranks at the top of the country with its 24-3 record. They are joined by Gonzaga, Duke, and Louisiana Tech as teams left in the country with three or less losses.
SFA is 13-0 at home this season and enters Thursday having won 16 in a row at William R. Johnson Coliseum, a streak that is tied with Middle Tennessee and Virginia for the seventh longest home win streak in the country.
The honors have started to come in for senior big man Taylor Smith as last week he was named as one of 25 finalists for the Lou Henson Award, an honor presented by CollegeInsider.com to the top Mid-Major payer in the country. He is the only Southland player to be named to the list and is joined by other nationally-recognized names such as Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan, Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Saint Mary’s Matthew Dellavadova.
Antonio Bostic had been relatively quiet offensively over SFA’s eight games leading into the BracketBuster matchup at Long beach State, reaching double figures just once in those games after a stretch of hitting for at least 10 points in six of his previous seven outings. That silence came to a screeching halt on Friday at Long Beach State when Bostic pumped in 21 points against the 49ers, and followed that up with 15 points in SFA’s win over Northwestern State. He’s .518 from the field in his last two games.
SFA is known for its defensive prowess, but it is even moreso evident when playing at William R. Johnson Coliseum. SFA has held its opponents to 50 points or fewer in 20 of 41 games at home in the last three seasons, allowing just 51.6 points per game at home in 2010-11 and 53.1 points per game in 2011-12. It is allowing just 47.1 points per game in 13 home games this season.