Lumberjacks Set For SLC Showdown
Jan. 23, 2008
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - SFA at Sam Houston State
January 24, 2008 7:00 p.m.
Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum (6,100) Huntsville, Texas
Radio: KTBQ (107.7 FM) Television: None Web: Yahoo! Sports
Southland Showdown: The Southland Conference basketball race is barely two weeks old, but Thursday night will feature a game that stands to have huge implications for the SLC title chase. Stephen F. Austin will travel to Huntsville, Texas, to square off with rival Sam Houston State Thursday in a 7 p.m. contest. The Lumberjacks enter the game with a Southland-best 15-2 mark, leading the SLC West and tied for the overall conference lead with a 3-1 record in league action. Sam Houston, the odds-on preseason favorite to win the Southland Conference, brings a 14-3 overall record and a 2-2 league mark to the contest. The Bearkats and Lumberjacks are both currently ranked in the Mid-Major Top 25 poll -- Sam Houston at No. 14 and SFA at No. 17.
Last Game: SFA turned in one of its most impressive defensive efforts of the season Saturday in a 64-39 victory over McNeese State. The Lumberjacks forced 19 turnovers while holding the Cowboys to 29.8 percent shooting, the second-lowest shooting percentage for an SFA opponent this season. The 39 points scored by the Cowboys tied for the second-fewest points scored by a Lumberjack foe this season. At the other end of the floor, SFA had little trouble finding the basket. Junior forward Josh Alexander led the way with a 6-for-12 effort from the floor, knocking down 3-of-7 3-pointers for a game-high 19 points. Junior center Matt Kingsley added 13 points and a team-best seven rebounds. Sophomore point guard Eric Bell finished with six assists and six steals, leading all players in both categories.
vs. Sam Houston State: SFA leads the all-time series with the Bearkats, 96-87. The Lumberjacks are 4-6 in their last 10 regular-season meetings with Sam Houston with a 1-4 mark in the last five regular-season meetings. Under head coach Danny Kaspar, the Lumberjacks are 2-7 on the road against the Bearkats, including two Southland Conference tournament losses in Huntsville. Sam Houston won both meetings last year, including a 63-51 victory in Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum. The last time SFA defeated Sam on the road was a 73-72 win in the 2005-06 season. Overall, the Lumberjacks are 5-11 against the Bearkats under Kaspar.
The Bearkats: Sam Houston State brings an impressive 9-1 home record into Thursday's showdown. The Bearkats opened the season with eight straight home wins in non-conference action before suffering their first home loss of the season in their SLC opener against Southeastern Louisiana. Sam Houston has already played in three overtime games this season, losing both road games that went past regulation -- including a 93-90 loss at Lamar on Saturday -- and collecting a 60-58 overtime win at home over Central Florida.
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 123-91 (.575) at SFA and has a 342-143 (.705) overall record in his 17th season as a collegiate head coach. Sam Houston State is coached by Bob Marlin. Marlin is 173-106 (.620) in 10 seasons with the Bearkats and holds a 296-141 (.677) record in 14 years as a collegiate head coach.
Up Next: Next week, SFA will take on a pair of SLC West Division foes in Texas State and Texas-Arlington. The Lumberjacks host Texas State Thursday in a 7 p.m. game, then go on the road Saturday to take on the Mavericks. That contest is set for a 4 p.m. start.
News and Notes
...AND KEEP YOUR ENEMIES CLOSER: Thursday's game at Sam Houston State will renew the most-played rivalry in SFA history. The Lumberjacks hold an all-time edge in the series, 96-87, but the Bearkats have won six of the last 10 meetings. However, dating back to a 69-66 overtime loss in the championship game of the 2003 Southland Conference Tournament, five of those six losses have been by six points of fewer.
FAST START: SFA opened the season with a 12-1 record, the best start to a season since the program joined the NCAA Division I ranks. The fantastic start was 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. At 15-2, the Lumberjacks are now ahead of the 1981-82 team for the best record through 16 games. SFA's 10-game winning streak was the program's first double-digit run since the 'Jacks won 13 in a row during the 2002-03 season.
RANK AND FILE: SFA fell to No. 17 in Monday's CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll. Last week's poll found SFA at No. 13, following the Lumberjacks' first loss in 11 games. This is SFA's seventh straight week in the rankings after entering the poll at No. 25 on Dec. 10, following the Lumberjacks' upset win at Oklahoma. SFA then moved up in the poll each week, jumping to 22nd, 16th, then 11th, before cracking the Top 10 two weeks ago.
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.
D-UP: SFA's defense has been dominant this season. The Lumberjacks have held opponents to an average of 54.6 points per game, which leads the Southland Conference and ranks second 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 11 opponents to fewer than 60 points and have only allowed one team to break 70. SFA ranks 16th in the country in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to 37.9 percent shooting from the field. Perhaps most importantly, though, the Lumberjacks don't allow the opposition many second chances. SFA gives up just 30.1 rebounds per game, best in the conference, and the Lumberjacks rank 57th in the nation in rebounding margin, at plus-4.8 boards per game.
STINGY ON THE GLASS: The Lumberjacks give up the fewest rebounds per game in the Southland Conference. SFA is currently allowing its opponents just 30.1 rebounds per game. In addition, SFA has allowed just two players from opposing teams to record double-digit rebounds in a game. That happened for the first time when Southeastern Louisiana's Patrick Sullivan pulled down 10 and again Saturday, when McNeese State's Jarvis Bradley also recorded 10 rebounds.
DOUBLE-UP: SFA posted just three double-doubles all of last season -- Josh Alexander had two, and Matt Kingsley recorded one. The Lumberjacks have already surpassed that mark this year with five double-doubles -- each of the first four coming from a different player. Kingsley posted the first with 22 points and 13 rebounds against Jackson State. Nick Shaw then scored 17 points and pulled down 16 rebounds against Louisiana-Monroe, and Eric Bell had 18 points with 11 assists at Northern Illinois three days later. Alexander finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds at Jackson State, then recorded his seventh career double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds at Nicholls State.
DIAL "1" FOR ASSISTANCE: Sophomore point guard Eric Bell (jersey number 1) leads the Southland Conference in assists and ranks 20th in the nation with 6.06 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 68th in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.02.
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 54-for-106 (.509) including a 33-of-70 (.471) showing from 3-point range in the Lumberjacks' last nine games. He has scored 17 or more points seven times in that span, including a season-high 26 against Lamar and two performances with 22 points. Alexander has not missed a free throw since his first attempt against Nicholls State and is a perfect 15-for-15 since that misfire. Alexander broke the 1,000-point barrier with his 14th point in SFA's loss at Nicholls State, when he scored a game-high 18 points. If he continues his current scoring pace, he could rank as high as 11th on the school's all-time scoring list by the end of the season. Alexander is also just 10 3-point field goals away from setting a school record for career 3-point baskets.
ON A ROLL ON THE ROAD: SFA's recent 10-game winning streak included 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. Overall, the Lumberjacks are 7-2 in games outside of William R. Johnson Coliseum this season.
PERFECT IN THE WRJ: The Lumberjacks are out to an 8-0 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 10 of 17 games this season, winning all but one of those contests. 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 83-25 (.769) record in the William R. Johnson Coliseum, including an 8-0 home mark this season. SFA is 279-116 (.706) 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.
Scouting the Bearkats
FOR THE RECORD: Sam Houston State enters Thursday's game with a 14-3 overall mark and a 2-2 Southland Conference record. The Bearkats opened the season with a 10-game winning streak, which ranks as the best season start this year in the SLC and ties SFA's mid-season 10-game run for the longest win streak in the conference. Sam Houston's season-opening run included impressive home wins over Texas Tech, Fresno State and Central Florida. The Bearkats also notched big road wins against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Saint Louis and Loyola Marymount. Sam Houston's first loss of the season came on Dec. 28 in a 79-78 overtime verdict at San Diego State. The Bearkats opened SLC play with a 61-58 home loss to Southeastern Louisiana, then won back-to-back games against Nicholls State and at McNeese State, before suffering a 93-90 overtime loss at Lamar on Saturday.
LAST GAME: Lamar got a tip-in with 27 seconds left in regulation to tie the game, then outscored Sam Houston State, 17-14, in overtime to collect a 93-90 win Saturday. Five Sam Houston players scored in double figures, but six Cardinals broke the 10-point plane, and Lamar went 3-for-4 from 3-point range while hitting all eight of its free throws in the extra period to collect the win. For the game, the Cardinals were 25-of-27 from the foul stripe. The Lamar bench outscored the Bearkat reserves, 30-16, helping to overcome a 56-36 advantage in the paint for Sam Houston. Ashton Mitchell and DeLuis Ramirez scored 19 points each to lead the Bearkats. Ryan Bright grabbed eight rebounds to tie for game-high honors.
KEY NUMBERS: Sam Houston State is second only to SFA in the Southland Conference in terms of scoring defense. The Bearkats give up just 58.9 points per game and hold their opponents to a .367 shooting percentage and a .275 average from 3-point range, both tops in the Southland. The Bearkats are second in the league in rebounding, averaging 41.8 boards per contest, and lead the conference with a plus-7.4 advantage in rebounding margin. The Bearkats lead the league in assists, averaging 18.59 dimes per game, and rank first in the SLC in assist-turnover ratio at 1.08.
LEADERS: Senior guard Shamir McDaniel averages 12.9 points per game, which leads the team and ranks 11th in the Southland Conference. McDaniel is the only Bearkat among the conference's top 25 scorers, but classmate Ryan Bright averages 10.7 points per game, and junior guard DeLuis Ramirez trails closely at 10.6 points per contest. Bright leads the SLC rebounding race by a wide margin with 11.0 boards per game. The next-best average in the league is 8.6. Bright is also tops on the team and sixth in the conference in assists, averaging 3.82 per game. Sophomore guard Ashton Mitchell ranks eighth in that category with 3.59 assists per contest. McDaniel ranks fourth in the league in 3-point field goal percentage (.432) and is tied for sixth in 3-pointers made (2.41).
For the complete release, click on the "Sam Houston State Game Notes" link in the side bar of the Men's Basketball home page.
-- SFA --