Demons Down SFA
March 8, 2007
HOUSTON, Texas - Senior guard Chaz Dykes came off the bench to score a career-high 17 points, leading a rare late-season offensive outburst for Stephen F. Austin. But the Lumberjacks' big scoring effort wasn't enough to overcome their 19 turnovers, as No. 3 Northwestern State bagged an 85-76 win over No. 6 SFA Thursday in the opening round of the O'Reilly Auto Parts Southland Conference Tournament. The Lumberjacks saw their season end at 15-14, as they failed to reach the semifinals of the SLC Tournament for the first time in their last four post-season appearances.
The 76 points is the most scored in regulation for SFA since an 82-62 win at Texas State on Jan. 25. Thursday, the Lumberjacks employed a more aggressive offensive style that called for the guards to drive to the basket as often as possible, in hopes of keeping pace with the high-scoring Demons.
"We've been talking about being more aggressive and having people penetrate," SFA head coach Danny Kaspar said. "You've got to play that way if you want to win. You can't just always rely on jump shots."
The strategy paid off in the scoring column, but SFA's turnover troubles kept the Lumberjacks from building any kind of a lead. SFA committed 10 turnovers in the first half, when Northwestern took a 39-31 lead to the break. Four of the Lumberjacks' nine second-half turnovers came in the final 5:47, when Northwestern turned a 71-69 SFA lead into the nine-point final margin with a 16-5 run to close out the game. Overall, the Demons scored 22 points off turnovers.
"The story of the game today is turnovers," Kaspar said. "We turned it over in some situations where it was very frustrating - just one-on-one situations and some poor decisions we made.
"We were fine, as far as turnovers went, until we had to go to the bench. (Starting point guard) Gerald Fonzie played 30 minutes and didn't have a single turnover. But he gets tired. When he came out of the game, they pounced on us."
Fonzie came out of the game for good with 3:20 left when he picked up his fifth foul, another trouble spot for the Lumberjacks on Thursday. Junior forward Kyle Jacobs also fouled out of the game, as SFA was whistled for 28 personal fouls, sending the Demons to the foul stripe 40 times - two off the season-high for an SFA opponent. Northwestern shot 67.5 percent from the free throw line.
The Lumberjacks' more aggressive approach on offense assured them of more chances at the stripe, as well. SFA knocked down 20 of its 29 free throws. Dykes, perhaps SFA's best player in terms of driving to the basket, was at the front of the Lumberjacks' efforts at the stripe. He was 7-of-8 on free throws, including hitting his first four attempts in the second half, as the Lumberjacks cut an eight-point Demon advantage down to one (46-45) barely three minutes into the second frame.
"Chaz took the ball to the hole really well today," Kaspar said.
"Coach has been telling me all year long to be more aggressive," Dykes said. "When you're in the tournament, it's do or die time."
Dykes was 5-of-15 from the floor in his final game as a Lumberjack. He also tied a season-high with four rebounds. After his fourth straight free throw of the second half brought SFA to within one, sophomore forward Josh Alexander sank a 3-pointer to answer a Demon basket and give the Lumberjacks a 48-47 lead with 16:08 left. It was SFA's first lead since the 8:36 mark in the first half.
The Lumberjacks held the lead for the next 11 minutes. They pressed their advantage to six points when sophomore center Matt Kingsley was fouled on a layup and converted the three-point play, giving SFA a 62-56 edge with 11:15 to play. But the Lumberjacks couldn't hold the momentum, and Northwestern State seized it with the big run late.
Kingsley finished with 16 points and was one rebound off a double-double with nine boards. Alexander added 13 points and six rebounds. Fonzie scored nine points - all in the first half - and pulled down three rebounds. The Lumberjacks hit 45 percent from the floor, including a 50-percent effort in the second half. SFA outrebounded the Demons, 42-39, and turned 12 offensive boards into 19 second-chance points - their second-best output of the season in that category.
Northwestern State's Luke Rogers dropped in 18 to edge out Dykes for game-high honors. Three other Demons reached double digits - Trey Gilder (14), Kennan Jones (13) and Jermaine Spencer (12). Northwestern State shot 43 percent from the field.
Despite 10 turnovers and a 39-percent showing from the floor in the first half, SFA stayed in the thick of the game and even held the upper hand for most of the middle portion of the half. The Demons entered the tournament averaging 78.7 points per game, the second-best production in the conference.
SFA took a six-point lead on Fonzie's 3-pointer with 10:41 left in the first half and held a 21-16 edge at the 9:24 mark. But Northwestern rattled off a 16-4 run over the next five-and-a-half minutes to take a 32-25 edge with 3:46 to play. The Lumberjacks went without a field goal for nearly six minutes down the stretch, and the Demons extended their advantage to 10 points (37-27) with 1:32 remaining.
But SFA cut into the lead in the final seconds when senior guard Keith Hardaway drove to the hoop for a shot clock-beating layup. The ensuing Northwestern possession ended in a turnover, and Dykes converted a fast-break layup at the other end to take his team to the locker room down by six, 37-31.
Fonzie and Dykes carried the Lumberjacks in the first half as they finished with nine and eight points, respectively. Alexander pulled down a team-best five rebounds in the opening frame, helping SFA keep pace with Northwestern State on the boards. The Demons held a slim 20-19 edge in rebounding at the half.
The loss ends SFA's 11th trip to the SLC Tournament. The Lumberjacks are 6-10 all-time in league postseason play. Five of SFA's 11 tournament bids have been earned under Kaspar, who has guided the Lumberjacks to the only two championship game appearances - in 2003 and 2004 - since joining the SLC. Kaspar's teams are 4-5 in tournament play.
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