Smith and Co. retain top spot with win
Published: Monday, February 11, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 11, 2013 09:02
The Lumberjacks chopped down two conference opponents in just three days to maintain sole possession of first place in the Southland Conference. Both games were at the William R. Johnson Coliseum, lifting SFA’s home record to 12-0 on the season.
The first matchup was an annihilation of Central Arkansas (9-12, 4-7 SLC) on Thursday night. The 72-36 victory capped off a season sweep of the Bears. Senior Taylor Smith sawed through the UCA defense, needing only 27 minutes of court time to accumulate 21 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks.
“I thought it was a very good defensive performance for us tonight,” SFA head coach Danny Kaspar said. “We took care of the ball well and played with good energy.”
Everyone on the roster got to see some playing time as Kaspar called off the dogs midway through the second half.
Desmond Haymon had a big night with 10 points and 8 rebounds while UCA ran full court press for almost the entire game.
“We knew they like to press, and it’s something we prepared for all week,” Kaspar said.
Smith broke the ice with a rebound and a layup. UCA answered with a jumper to tie the game at two-all; from that point, the rout of UCA begun.
Smith had 13 points and a couple of electrifying blocks just 10 minutes into the first half. Bostic, Haymon, Bateman, Parker and Walkup all contributed points to a lead that reached its peak at 39-14 with three minutes to play before halftime.
UCA was able to trim that lead with a 9-0 scoring run to end the half.
Uncomfortable with how they finished the first half, SFA came out in the second period firing on all cylinders. The Jacks opened with a 24-6 scoring run and held UCA scoreless for a span of 11 minutes. The 36-point margin at the final buzzer tied SFA’s all-time Southland Conference record.
“I’d like to thank all the students and townspeople for showing up,” Kaspar said.
The Jacks had just 46 hours to prepare for their next matchup against Oral Roberts (14-10, 9-3 SLC). At the time of tip-off Saturday, ORU was one game behind SFA in the conference standings. It was a physical game that tested SFA’s No. 1 ranked defense. Four Jacks scored in double figures en route to a 77-67 win.
SFA came out a little flat to start the first half. ORU hit four of its first six shots and jumped out to a 10-3 lead. However, a Hal Bateman and-one conversion followed by a saucy two-handed jam by Taylor Smith ignited a comeback. Bateman picked up a couple of fouls early and Trey Pinkney subbed in for him. Pinkney got a quick steal and dished the rock to Smith for a layup that gave SFA a 14-13 lead.
ORU answered with a couple of foul shots to retake the lead. Pinkney then found Desmond Haymon on the wing, who swished home a three-pointer, giving SFA the lead at 17-15. That lead would stand for the rest of the game. SFA went on a 10-2 run to end the first half setting the score at 38-28.
Bateman praised Pinkney for stepping up when his number was called.
“Having Trey come in and get all of those assists really got everyone going,” Bateman said.
Pinkney recorded six assists along with two steals and 3 points in the contest.
The Jacks came out strong in the second half, scoring the first three buckets. Though ORU was shooting the ball well, SFA always had an answer and kept the lead at double digits most of the half.
The Jacks were efficient throughout the night offensively, shooting 49.1 percent from the floor. It was also a solid night from downtown. SFA hit 6 of 13 three-point attempts.
Everyone was getting involved on the offensive end of the court. Taylor Smith scored 21 points, Jacob Parker scored 11, Hal Bateman scored 11 and Desmond Haymon racked up 17. Nine of Haymon’s points came from three crucial long balls he drilled.
The Jacks had to battle through foul trouble from its starters as Smith played the final 7:16 with four personal fouls. ORU did their best to extend the game, sending the Jacks to the line 14 times in the final three minutes, but the SFA converted on nine of those 14 attempts to close the game.
The win was significant in regards to the Southland Conference standings. SFA still holds the top spot in the Southland, which would make them the top seed if the Southland Conference Tournament started today. Winning the conference tournament means automatic admission to the NCAA Tournament.
“Getting that win was huge,” Parker said. “And the sweep of ORU just takes it to the next level.”
Just before tip-off Kansas, who is ranked No. 5 in the country, was knocked-off by the Oklahoma Sooners. The Lumberjacks beat OU in Norman on Dec. 18 with a score of 56-55 and OU’s win over Kansas improves SFA’s chances of making the NCAA tournament through an at-large bid, in case the Jacks don’t win the conference tournament at the end of the year.
“We were actually watching the game in the locker room,” Antonio Bostic said. “It just goes to show we can play with anyone.”
SFA’s next matchup is against conference opponent Nicholls State in Thibodaux, La. this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN3.