Lumberjacks Set To Open SLC Play
Jan. 8, 2008
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Game Information:
SFA at Nicholls State Colonels
January 10, 2008 6:30 p.m.
Stopher Gymnasium (3,800) Thibodaux, La.
Radio: KTBQ (107.7 FM) Television: None Web: Yahoo! Sports
Southland Opener: The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjack basketball team will open Southland Conference play this weekend with a pair of games in South Louisiana. The Lumberjacks kick things off Thursday with a 6:30 p.m. game at Nicholls State. SFA is 12-1 on the season and brings the momentum of a 10-game winning streak to the contest. Nicholls State enters the game with a 5-10 record. The Lumberjacks are 4-3 in Southland Conference openers under Danny Kaspar.
Last Game: SFA cruised past Wiley College, 74-45, last Saturday in its final non-conference tune-up. Junior forward Josh Alexander played just 16 minutes but scored a game-high 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting, including a 4-for-5 effort from 3-point range. Alexander also tied a season-high with four assists. Sophomore point guard Eric Bell scored seven points and dished out seven assists, while junior center Benson Akpan added 10 points and eight rebounds. Senior forward Scott Weaver pulled down a career-high 10 boards. The Lumberjacks shot 51.7 percent from the field while holding Wiley to 30.4 percent. The 45 points were a season-low for the Wildcats.
vs. Nicholls State: SFA is 27-20 all-time against the Colonels. The Lumberjacks have won nine of the last 10 meetings, including two in a row. Under head coach Danny Kaspar, SFA is 4-1 against the Colonels in Thibodaux. The Lumberjacks' lone loss to Nicholls in the last 10 meetings was a 77-71 defeat in Thibodaux to open the 2005-06 SLC slate. SFA is 9-2 overall against Nicholls under Kaspar.
The Colonels: Nicholls State's 5-10 record is largely a product of the Colonels' non-conference schedule, which is rated the 22nd-toughest slate in the country by RealTimeRPI.com. The Colonels have played all but two of their games away from Stopher Gym, but they are undefeated at home, so far, with wins over Huston-Tillotson and Louisiana-Monroe.
The Coaches: SFA is led by head coach Danny Kaspar. Kaspar is in his eighth season at the helm for the Lumberjacks. He holds a record of 120-91 (.569) at SFA and has a 339-143 (.703) overall record in his 17th season as a collegiate head coach. Nicholls State is coached by J.P. Piper. Piper is 28-71 (.283) in his fourth season with the Colonels and his fourth overall as a college coach.
Up Next: SFA will continue its SLC-opening road trip with a Saturday game against Southeastern Louisiana. The game against the Lions is set for a 3 p.m. tip from Hammond, La.
News and Notes
FAST START: SFA's 12-1 record this year is the best start to a season since the program joined the NCAA Division I ranks and is the best 13-game mark for the program since the 1981-82 season, when the Lumberjacks opened the season with seven straight wins and went on to post a 14-1 record before finally recording their second loss of the season in the 16th game.
RANK AND FILE: SFA was ranked No. 10 in Monday's CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll, marking the Lumberjacks' first-ever appearance in the Top 10. This is SFA's fifth straight week in the rankings after entering the poll at No. 25 on Dec. 10, following the Lumberjacks' upset win at Oklahoma. SFA has moved up in the poll each week since joining the rankings, jumping to 22nd, 16th, then 11th last week, before cracking the Top 10 Monday.
VOTE OF CONFIDENCE: SFA received a vote in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll in each of the last two weeks of December. This marked the first time since the 2003-04 season for the Lumberjacks to earn a vote in a national Top 25 poll. That year, SFA earned one vote in the Associated Press poll.
3-D: SFA's defense has been dominant this season. The Lumberjacks have held opponents to an average of 53.5 points per game, which leads the Southland Conference and ranks third in the nation. While good defense has long been a mark of Danny Kaspar-coached teams, the Lumberjacks have never finished higher than 12th in the national rankings in terms of scoring defense. This season, the Lumberjacks have held eight opponents to fewer than 60 points and have yet to allow any team to break 70. SFA ranks 19th in the country in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to 37.8 percent shooting from the field. Perhaps most importantly, though, the Lumberjacks don't allow the opposition many second chances. SFA gives up just 29.2 rebounds per game, best in the conference, and the Lumberjacks rank 39th in the nation in rebounding margin, at plus-6.2 boards per game.
KING OF THE (scoring) COLUMN: Junior center Matt Kingsley has led the Lumberjacks in scoring in six of the first 13 games this season, including four performances with 20-plus points. His 26-point showing at Jackson State was a season high. Kingsley leads the Southland Conference scoring race with 17.0 points per game. Kingsley reached double digits in scoring in each of the first 11 games this season, blasting his previous career-best streak of five straight double-figure games, set late last season.
DIAL "1" FOR ASSISTANCE: Sophomore point guard Eric Bell (jersey number 1) leads the Southland Conference in assists and ranks 14th in the nation with 6.38 assists per game. He posted a career-high 11 assists at Northern Illinois. That marked the first double-digit assist effort for a Lumberjack since Marcus Clark dished out 10 in a game during the 2005-06 season. Bell also leads the Southland and ranks 38th in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.52.
ALEXANDER THE GREAT: Junior forward Josh Alexander has hit a hot streak that has the Shreveport, La., native on pace for a record year in 2007-08. Alexander is 33-for-58 (.569) including a 21-of-39 (.538) showing from 3-point range in the Lumberjacks' last five games. He has scored 17 or more points four times in that span, including a season-high 22 twice. If his current pace holds up, Alexander will break the 1,000-point barrier in SFA's game at Nicholls State Thursday. He needs just 14 points to crack the threshold and could rank as high as 11th on the all-time scoring list by the end of the season. Alexander is also just 22 3-point field goals away from setting a new career mark in that category.
ON A ROLL ON THE ROAD: SFA's current 10-game winning streak includes five straight victories in non-conference road games and a neutral-site win. This marks the first time in program history for the Lumberjacks to win five straight road games against Division I, non-conference opponents. It's the first time since the 1981-82 season for SFA to win more than three straight out-of-conference road games against any level of competition.
PERFECT IN THE WRJ: The Lumberjacks are out to a 6-0 start in home games at the William R. Johnson Coliseum. The last time a Lumberjack team won more than three in a row at home to start a season was in 2003-04, when SFA went 16-0 at home as part of a 31-game home winning streak that dated to the previous season and was the longest active streak in the nation by the time it was finally broken.
BOARDOM: SFA has outrebounded its opponent in nine of 13 games this season by an average margin of 10.0 boards per contest. The Lumberjacks pulled down 41 rebounds in the win over Louisiana-Monroe, two games after the Lumberjacks' 43-board effort against Jackson State. SFA posted a season-high 49 rebounds against Huston-Tillotson, besting the Rams by 22 boards, then put up 43 rebounds against Paul Quinn and finished with 42 against Wiley. The Lumberjacks pulled down 40-plus rebounds only four times in all last season and surpassed 43 boards only twice.
SAFE AT HOME: In seven-plus seasons under head coach Danny Kaspar, the Lumberjacks have compiled an 81-25 (.764) record in the William R. Johnson Coliseum, including a 6-0 home mark this season. SFA is 277-116 (.705) all-time in the Coliseum. The 'Jacks went 10-5 (.667) at home in 2006-07. SFA defeated UT-Tyler, 63-47, in the 2007-08 season opener. Kaspar's teams are a perfect 8-0 in home openers at SFA.
EARLY SIGNINGS: SFA signed three recruits during the fall's early signing period. The Lumberjacks added shooting guard Walt Harris, small forward Zach Williams and power forward Lu Griffin. Harris and Griffin are top-flight junior college players -- Harris from McLennan J.C. and Griffin from South Plains J.C. -- while Williams, a Dallas Skyline product, is a Top 15 prep recruit for his class in the state of Texas. The trio has been ranked tops in the Southland Conference among early signing classes by The Hoop Scoop, with a league-best average player rating of 3.0. Rivals.com rates Harris and Williams as the best shooting guard and small forward, respectively, signed in the Southland Conference this fall.
Scouting the Colonels
ABOUT THE COLONELS: Nicholls State enters Southland Conference play as one of only three teams with fewer than six wins. The Colonels (5-10) have battled through the 22nd toughest non-conference schedule in the nation, according to RealTimeRPI.com. The brutal slate included 10 road games, six of which came against schools from BCS conferences, including a date with North Carolina, currently the No. 1 team in both national polls. The Colonels are 1-9 in away games, their only road victory coming in a 76-70 win at New Orleans that kicked off a stretch that saw Nicholls win three of four games. The Colonels are 2-0 in Stopher Gymnasium with a 92-55 win over Huston-Tillotson and a 78-65 victory against Louisiana-Monroe.
LAST GAME: Nicholls State hasn't played since Dec. 30, but the Colonels collected an 84-68 win against Kennesaw State in their final game at the UNLV Duel in the Desert Tournament on that date. Nicholls shot 54.9 percent from the floor while holding the Owls to 35.7 percent, including a 22-percent effort in the first half. The Colonels held Kennesaw State to just 18 first-half points and cruised to the easy win, breaking a three-game skid. Second-leading scorer, Ryan Bathie, poured in 22 points to lead the Colonels, and freshman Anatoly Bose scored 21.
KEY NUMBERS: Nicholls State's 63.3 points per game rank 11th in the Southland Conference, and the Colonels allow an average of 71.8 points per game, which ranks ninth in the league. The primary culprit for Nicholls has been its .419 shooting percentage, which ranks ninth in the league. Combined with the Colonels' SLC-worst minus-3.1 in rebounding margin, Nicholls' poor shooting has kept the Colonels out of games down the stretch, as evidenced by their seven losses by at least 20 points. Nicholls does rank third in the league in 3-point field goals made with 7.47 per game.
LEADERS: Sophomore guard Michael Czepil leads the Colonels in scoring at 11.6 points per game but has missed each of the last two contests. Ryan Bathie is a close second with 11.5 points per contest, and the 6-6 junior leads Nicholls in blocked shots with six. Freshman forward Dominic Friend leads the Colonels in rebounding with 4.2 boards per contest and ranks third on the team in scoring with 8.3 points per game.
For the complete release, click the "Nicholls State Game Notes" link in the side bar of the Men's Basketball home page.
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