Alexander's Hot Hand Leads `Jacks To Win
Dec. 30, 2007
DALLAS, Texas - Josh Alexander hit five straight 3-point field goals to open the second half then knocked down two free throws with five seconds left to close the door on a 61-58 Stephen F. Austin victory at SMU Sunday. The win gives SFA its ninth straight win and the championship in the inaugural SMU Holiday Classic.
The Lumberjacks improved to 11-1 on the season, continuing the program's best start to a season in 26 years. SMU evened its record at 6-6 with the loss.
Alexander, who averaged 19.5 points in the two tournament games, was named the Holiday Classic's Most Valuable Player. He finished the first half Sunday with no points on 0-for-4 shooting, but opened the second frame on fire and had a game-high 17 points by the end of the contest.
Alexander knocked down his first triple of the game at the 18:23 mark to draw SFA to within a point at 23-22. He sank another shot from downtown on the very next Lumberjack possession to tie the count at 25.
SMU answered with a three of its own, then sank a jumper to take a 30-25 lead, but Alexander responded with 3-pointers on three of the next four Lumberjack possessions, and senior guard Gerald Fonzie sank a fourth triple in the middle to stake SFA to a 37-35 lead with 13:43 to play. From there, the lead changed hands four times with a pair of ties down the stretch.
Alexander, meanwhile, didn't add to his 15 points until the closing seconds. After SFA took a 59-58 lead on two free throws by Nick Shaw with 26 second left, SMU missed a jumper and a tip-in at the other end, and Alexander skied to haul in the rebound. The junior forward from Shreveport, La., was fouled and went to the stripe with 5.2 seconds left and the chance to give his team a 3-point lead. He sandwiched two made free throws around a 30-second timeout then put a hand up to defend a desperation 3-point attempt at the buzzer at the other end. The shot missed, and sophomore point guard Eric Bell cradled the rebound, and the victory, into his chest.
Alexander's quick start to the second half was supplemented by a 3-pointer each from Fonzie and senior Scott Weaver, as the Lumberjacks hit seven of their first eight from downtown after going just 1-for-10 from beyond the arc in the first half.
The hot shooting from outside in the second period stood in stark contrast to a first half that was marked by hustle and penetration for the Lumberjacks. With Alexander and Bell each in foul trouble early in the game, the SFA supporting cast came to life in the first period, most notably in the form of freshmen guards Eddie Williams and Preston Davis.
With SFA trailing by four at the 5:55 mark, Williams cut to the basket for a layup to make it a 15-13 game. After a missed jumper at the other end, Davis beat the shot clock with a long two to knot the score with 4:37 to play.
On a similar play with 55 seconds to play, Davis missed on a shot-clock-beating three attempt, but senior forward Scott Weaver controlled the rebound and flipped a behind-the-back pass toward mid-court, where Fonzie corralled it and pushed the ball ahead to Williams. Williams sliced his way to the rim and laid the ball in with 44 seconds left to give SFA a 19-18 lead. That proved to be the halftime score and stands as the lowest combined first-half point total for the Lumberjacks this season.
The SFA bench outscored its SMU counterpart, 10-3, in the first half and 15-12 for the game. The Lumberjacks covered for their poor shooting in the first half by getting to the rack, and led SMU, 10-4, in points in the paint at the break. SFA outrebounded the Mustangs, 19-16, in the first half.
For the game, SMU won the battle on the boards, 33-32. Both teams upped their shooting percentages in the second half and SFA finished at 41.2 percent to SMU's 38.8. The Lumberjacks grabbed nine offensive rebounds and finished with 10 second-chance points.
Fonzie scored 13 points to join Alexander in double figures. He also pulled down five rebounds to tie with junior center Matt Kingsley for team-high honors. Kingsley finished with eight points and joined Alexander on the all-tournament team. Shaw and Williams added six points apiece, and Weaver finished with five.
The Lumberjacks will return to action on Saturday, Jan. 5, when they host Wiley College in their final non-conference game of the season. SFA will then open Southland Conference play on Jan. 10 with a game at Nicholls State, followed by a Jan. 12 date at Southeastern Louisiana.
-- SFA --