Stephen F. Austin Opens NCAA Tournament Friday against VCU

first_imgPostseason News & Notes (PDF) Perfect in Conference Play: Stephen F. Austin was one of just three Division I teams to finish the season without a loss in a conference game. Joining the Lumberjacks on the list are Wichita State (18-0 Missouri Valley) and Florida (18-0 Southeastern). The Lumberjacks are 29-2 overall and 18-0 in Southland games. All three also won their respective conference tournament. SFA Wins Southland Tournament: Stephen F. Austin used a 21-5 second-half run to turn a tight game into a 68-49 rout of Sam Houston State to win the 2014 Southland Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament Championship at the Leonard E. Merrell Center last Saturday night to earn the automatic bid into the NCAA tournament in the process. The win was also the 28th straight for the Lumberjacks (31-2), the nation’s second-longest streak in the nation. Only undefeated Wichita State has a longer run. SFA went undefeated in 18 Southland Conference games en route to earning the school’s second tournament championship. Tournament most valuable player Thomas Walkup scored 19 points and added five rebounds and four assists for the Lumberjacks, who led just 35-32 with 18:12 remaining before going on their decisive run, which put them up 56-37 with 7:08 left after a basket from Conner Brooks. Sam Houston (23-10) hit just 2 of 8 shots and committed six turnovers during the pivotal run and the Bearkats were held to only 38.6 percent shooting on the night. Southland in the CIT: Sam Houston’s win on Tuesday was the Southland Conference’s third win in four  years in the CIT, though that includes a trip by ORU in the 2011 tournament when it lost at SMU in its final season in the Summit League. McNeese State lost at Toledo in the 2012 CIT, but ORU broke through for the Southland last year for a pair of wins, beating Texas-Arlington and California-Irvine before dropping a third-round game at Weber State. Current Southland teams are 3-3 in the CIT after Sam Houston’s win Tuesday. Second-round opponents will be announced Thursday. Lumberjacks First-Year Mentor Tabbed Coach of the Year: Stephen F. Austin took home its second consecutive coach of the year award. Brad Underwood, who joined the Lumberjacks after a long career as an assistant coach, most recently at South Carolina, and previously at Kansas State under Frank Martin and Bob Huggins, is making a name for himself in his first season as a head coach. The Lumberjacks finished the regular season with a 29-2 record and became the first Southland team to win 30 or more games. The record ranks in the top-10 all-time starts by a first-year head coach in NCAA history. Underwood’s squad became the first in the Southland to navigate a perfect 18-game schedule and is the first undefeated league champion since Arkansas State in 1967. No team in the league’s 51-year history had gone undefeated in more than an eight-game schedule. 2014 All-Tournament Team: Stephen F. Austin sophomore guard Thomas Walkup was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2014 Southland Conference Tournament. He scored 19 points in the championship game and averaged 12.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in his two tournament games. He was joined on the team by senior teammate, guard Desmond Haymon (17.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.5 apg), Sam Houston State junior guards Jabari Peters (11.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.3 apg) and Kaheem Ransom (13.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.3 apg, 2.3 spg) as well as Northwestern State sophomore guard Jalan West (27.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg and 3.5 apg). Sam Houston State has Newcomer of the Year: Sam Houston State junior guard Jabari Peters is the fourth player from Sam Houston State to earn Newcomer of the Year accolades and the first since Gilberto Clavell in 2010. Peters, a junior guard from Brooklyn, N.Y. (Grady H.S.) is a junior college transfer from Seward (Kan.) County Community College and has made an immediate impact in Huntsville. One of five players who started every game for the Bearkats, he led the team in scoring with 12.9 points per game. Peters is tied for fifth in the league with 4.2 assists per game and his 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio is seventh in the Southland. He has scored 20 points or more five times and has scored in double figures in 18 games. Through the regular season, he had led the Bearkats in scoring 11 times this season and tallied a season-high 29 points against Prairie View A&M in November. He hit the game-winning 3-pointer against 2013 NCAA tournament team James Madison in December. Peters recorded his second double-double of the season against New Orleans to close the regular season, going for 11 points and season-high 10 assists. Other Bearkats that have been named newcomer of the year include Jejuan Plair in 2006 and Donald Cole in 2002. Bearkats, Islanders in CIT: Sam Houston State and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi were selected for the Tournament this year. The Bearkats, who finished third during the regular season before losing to Stephen F. Austin in the tournament championship, were awarded a home game Tuesday against Alabama State. Sam Houston improved to 24-10 record after claiming a 71-49 win on Tuesday. This season is the first time the Bearkats have won 20 or more games since the 2009-10 season when they won the regular season and tournament titles. A&M-Corpus Christi reached the postseason for the first time since it’s 2007 sweep of regular-season and tournament championships. The Islanders, which have one of the best turnarounds in the NCAA this year, were awarded with a CIT berth at Northern Colorado on Wednesday. A&M-Corpus Christi was just 6-23 a season ago, but rebounded to go 17-15 overall. Their 14-4 conference record was one game better than Sam Houston, the team it lost to in the semifinals of this year’s Southland tournament (69-63). Northwestern State’s West is Top Defender: A season after earning conference freshman of the year honors, Northwestern State sophomore guard Jalan West was named the Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Year, an award in just its second year. The 5-foot-10 sophomore guard from Bossier City, La. (Bossier H.S.), led the Demons during the regular season in scoring with 18.9 points per game, which ranks fifth in the Southland. He paced the conference with 6.6 assists and 2.6 steals per game to go with a conference-best 87.7 free-throw aim. In league play, he averaged 7.1 assists per contest. West, who has been heralded by Bleacher Report as one of the nation’s best players under 6-feet tall, is the only Division I player who averaged at least 18.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game. West has tied the school record with 76 steals this season and he ranks fifth in the NCAA. He ranked eighth nationally in assists and is one of only two Division I players to rank among the top 10 in both assists and steals. West ranks seventh on the school’s career list in steals with 151 and is on pace to eventually shatter the school record of 264. UCA Tabs Pennell as Coach: Central Arkansas has named Russ Pennell as its new head men’s basketball coach. Pennell, who played at UCA from 1982-84, was interim coach at Arizona in 2008-09 and head coach at Grand Canyon University from 2009-2013. He most recently coached the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA. Pennell, a native of Pittsburg, Kan., has an extensive background as a collegiate assistant coach, at Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Arizona State and Arizona. Pennell, 53, replaces UCA interim coach Clarence Finley, who stepped in for Corliss Williamson last August when he left to be an assistant coach for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. Southland’s 20-Win Teams: In addition to Stephen F. Austin becoming the Southland Conference’s first 30-game winner, the Southland had two other teams win 20 games this year. Sam Houston State is 24-10 overall and recorded its first 20-win season since 2009-10. First-year conference member UIW also won 20 games, finishing with an overall mark of 21-6 in its first season as a Division I member. SFA is a No. 12 Seed: Stephen F. Austin drew the No. 12 seed in the South Regional. That is the best seed for a Southland team since former league member Louisiana Tech, led by Karl Malone, earned a No. 5 seed in the 1985 NCAA tournament. That was the first year of the 64-team tournament. Louisiana Tech won its first two games of the tournament, including wins over No. 12 Pittsburgh (78-54) and No. 4 Ohio State (79-67) before falling in the Sweet 16 to No. 1 Oklahoma (86-84) in overtime. Since then, three teams have been as high as a No. 13 seed. Louisiana-Monroe was a No. 13 in 1986 and 1993 and Nicholls was a No. 13 seed in 1995. Since 1985, the Southland has been a No. 14 seed six times, including last year’s Northwestern State team; a No. 15 seed nine times and a No. 16 seed 10 times. All-Conference Breakdown: Ten conference teams placed at least one player on the all-conference teams, led by first-place SFA, who landed three players – one on each of the three teams. Northwestern State, Oral Roberts and Sam Houston State each garnered two selections. Central Arkansas, McNeese State, Nicholls and A&M-Corpus Christi were joined by first-year members UIW and New Orleans with one selection each. Stephen F. Austin in the NCAA Tournament: Stephen F. Austin is making its second trip to the NCAA tournament. It was a No. 14 seed in the 2009 tournament and lost 59-44 to No. 3 seed Syracuse. The Orange ran out to a 20-4 lead and never let SFA get anything going in its first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament. Benson Akpan led SFA with 12 points and Nick Shaw added 10 in the first-round game at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Fla. The Lumberjacks missed 12 of their first 13 shots, and did not connect from 3-point range until Walt Harris hit from the left wing with 11:25 to play. It was the team’s 16th attempt from beyond the arc. SFA, which had led the nation in 3-point field goal defense, lived up to that billing. The Orange were 2-for-16 from long range, plus committed 21 turnovers to the Lumberjacks’ six. Syracuse held a 51-32 edge in rebounding and limited SFA to 25 percent shooting. SFA’s Parker Named Player of the Year: Stephen F. Austin junior Jacob Parker has been named the 2013-14 Southland Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Year by a vote of the league’s head coaches and sports information directors. Parker helped lead the Lumberjacks to their second consecutive Southland regular-season championship and their fourth overall. The forward from Bixby, Okla. (Bixby H.S.), averaged 14.5 points and 7.1 rebounds during the regular season to pace SFA. Among the conference leaders, Throughout the regular season, Parker was highly ranked in several statistical categories, including second in free-throw percentage (.870), fifth in offensive rebounds (2.5), seventh in rebounding (7.1), ninth in field goal percentage (.537), 11th in scoring (14.5) and 12th in defensive rebounds (4.5). He scored in double figures in all but five of the Lumberjacks’ 31 regular-season games and scored 20 or more points five times, including a season-high 31 points at Marshall in November. Parker has nine career double-doubles (all this season) and cleared a season-high 13 rebounds against Northwestern State in January. Parker is the fourth Lumberjack to earn the award and is the second consecutive SFA winner. Taylor Smith won the award last season, while Josh Alexander and Matt Kingsley won the award in consecutive seasons in 2008 and 2009. More on the Lumberjacks: Stephen F. Austin became the first Southland team to win 30 games in a season and enters the tournament with a 31-2 record. The 1985 Louisiana Tech team that reached the Sweet 16 finished 29-3 but won twice in the NCAA tournament. The Lumberjacks won 29 games during the regular season. SFA has won its last 23 conference games, including its last five league games in 2012-13 and all 18 games of the 2013-14 season. That broke the previous conference record of 19 set by Louisiana-Monroe. ULM’s streak included the final 16 games of the 1992-93 season and the first three games of the 1993-94 season. SFA’s overall win streak is 28 games and is the second longest active streak in the nation behind Wichita State, which is a perfect 34-0 this season and is the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Regional. SFA has not lost since Nov. 23 at East Tennessee. It’s only other loss was at Texas Nov. 15. That 72-62 loss snapped a string of 66 games that the Lumberjacks were able to hold their opposition to less than 70 points. SFA is 58-7 the last two years. The Lumberjacks are also enjoying a 33-game home-court win streak dating back to the 2011 season. It’s tied with Duke as the longest streak in the nation. SFA’s 14 road wins this season are the best in the nation, while its 12-game road win streak is tied for first. SFA enters the tournament ranked third in the nation in win percentage (93.9), tied for fifth in turnover margin (+5.2), seventh in scoring margin (+13.8), eighth in assists per game (16.6) and 11th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.49). SFA is also tied for 25th in scoring defense (62.6) and 43rd in scoring offense (76.5). First-year coach Brad Underwood, the Southland Conference Coach of the Year, enters the tournament in a three-way tie for third among the NCAA’s top-10 best career starts at the Division I level. He’s tied with Murray State’s Steve Prohm, who was 31-2 in 2012 and Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon, who was 31-5 in 2004. Southland NCAA Tournament Tidbits• The Southland Conference is 11-37 all-time in the NCAA tournament; that does not include a 2-5 tournament record by Oral Roberts or an 0-1 record by Houston Baptist, who are current conference members.• Since seeding began in the NCAA tournament in 1979, this year marks eighth time a Southland team has been a 12-seed or better. Louisiana Tech was a No. 5 seed in the 1985 tournament as the all-time best seed by a conference team. Lamar was No. 8 seed in 1981 and Louisiana-Lafayette was a No. 8 seed in 1982. Lamar was a No. 10 seed in 1979 and 1980, while Louisiana Tech was a No. 10 seed in 1984. Lamar was a No. 11 seed in the 1983 tournament.• Since the 2010 tournament, the Southland has received three No. 14 seeds and two No. 16 seeds.• Last year’s No. 14 seeding of Northwestern State snapped a two-year stretch in which the league’s tournament qualifier was a No. 16 seed. The Southland’s tournament team has been a No. 16 only three times since 2005 and 10 times overall, all since 1988. The Southland tournament champion was a No. 16 seed five years in a row between 1997-2001.• The winner of the Southland Conference regular-season title has been the league’s representative in the NCAA tournament only four times since 2006.• When the Southland regular-season champion wins the tournament to become the league’s AQ, it is rarely a No. 16 seed. In fact, that has happened only once since 1999. The league regular-season champion was a No. 14 seed in 2002, 2006 and 2009; and was a No. 15 seed in 2003, 2005, 2007.• The current members of the conference are 9-24 in the tournament, including Oral Roberts, which just finished its second season in the Southland Conference, and Houston Baptist, which completed its first Southland season. Lamar has five wins in the NCAA tournament while Northwestern State and Oral Roberts each have two. Eight former members were 4-19 as Southland members, including Louisiana Tech, which won three tournament games in 1984 and 1985 with Karl Malone.• The Golden Eagles have made five trips to the NCAA tournament and are 2-5 in tournament games. Both wins came in 1974 when the Golden Eagles reached the Sweet 16 before falling to Kansas 93-90 in overtime. ORU made three consecutive trips to the tournament from 2006-08 to go with another appearance in 1984.• This is the 30th anniversary of Houston Baptist’s only appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Huskies lost 79-60 to Alcorn State in a preliminary round game of the 1984 tournament. Southland in the NCAA Tournament: Stephen F. Austin is making the Southland’s 37th appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Southland is 11-37 in the tournament all time. Eight of those wins came between 1969-1985. The Southland was 8-8 in its first eight tournament berths, highlighted by Sweet 16 runs by Lamar in 1980 and Louisiana Tech in 1985. Northwestern State’s win in 2001 ended a 15-year drought by the league in the tournament. The Demons won again in 2006 and Texas-San Antonio won a first-round game against Alabama State in Dayton in 2011, giving the Southland three tournament wins since 1986. Demon Rookie Woodley is Best Frosh: Northwestern State freshman guard Zeek Woodley gives the Demons back-to-back Freshman of the Year winners in the Southland Conference. Overall, the guard from Pelican, La. (All Saints H.S.), is the third Northwestern State player to earn freshman of the year honors. He and West have a lot to do with how the Demons closed the year, with victories in 11 of their last 13 regular-season games, rallying the team from a 1-4 league start. Woodley was the top-scoring freshman in the conference through the regular season, averaging 14.1 points per game overall and 14.4 points in conference action. His 63.2 field-goal percentage led all Southland players and ranks third nationally. He is also shooting 42.9 percent on 3-pointers and 81.2 percent at the foul line. Woodley’s 14.1 points per game overall is the best scoring average in the league by a freshman since Stephen F. Austin’s Josh Alexander led the Lumberjacks with a 14.2 scoring average while winning the freshman of the year award in 2006. The two are the top scoring averages by league freshmen since former league member Texas-San Antonio’s Devin Brown averaged 16.7 points per game in 1998-99. Woodley, who maintained a 3.2 grade-point average in his first college semester, was a three-time Louisiana Class C MVP in high school. Southland’s Entrant in 2013 Tournament: Northwestern State won its third Southland Conference tournament title last year to make its third overall appearance in the NCAA tournament. Northwestern State drew the No. 14 seed in the tournament, but lost 79-47 to Florida at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas in a second-round game. Northwestern State soared into the tournament as the nation’s top-scoring team, but fell flat against the No. 3 seed Gators. Despite a great first half, Northwestern could not maintain its momentum in the second half. The Demons made just three field goals in the second half, shooting a season-low 18.8 percent. DeQuan Hicks led Northwestern with 12 points and eight rebounds; he was the only Demon to score in double-figures. The Demons finished the season with a 23-9 record, which marked the program’s 10th 20-win season. Florida, which got a game-high 18 points and eight rebounds from Eric Murphy, advanced the Elite Eight before falling to national runner-up Michigan. West Leads All-Defensive Team: Four all-conference selections also appear on the league’s five-member all-defensive team, including Northwestern State sophomore guard Jalan West, UIW junior guard Denzel Livingston, Stephen F. Austin sophomore guard Thomas Walkup and Oral Roberts senior guard/forward Shawn Glover. The other is McNeese State junior guard Kevin Hardy, who, like West, is on the all-defensive squad in each of the two years the team has been selected. FRISCO, Texas – For the second consecutive season, the Southland Conference has sent three teams to the postseason, led by Stephen F. Austin, the regular season and conference tournament champion. The Lumberjacks drew the No. 12 seed in the NCAA South Regional and will open the tournament Friday against Virginia Commonwealth at 6:27 p.m., CT, on truTV. SFA swept through an 18-game conference schedule and received a bye to the semifinal round of the league tournament. The Lumberjacks defeated defending tournament champion Northwestern State 85-78 before claiming a 68-49 victory against Sam Houston State in the championship game. It was the Lumberjacks second tournament win and this is their second trip to the NCAA tournament. The Bearkats are joined in the Tournament by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The Islanders, who finished second in the regular season. drew an opening round CIT game at Northern Colorado, while Sam Houston drew Alabama State in a home game. SFA Men, Women Sweep Regular-Season Titles: Stephen F. Austin has won regular-season Southland Conference titles in both men’s and women’s basketball this year to become just the second school to claim men’s and women’s titles in the same year. McNeese State was the first to do it in 2011. The Lumberjacks will be the No. 1 seed in the men’s tournament, while the Ladyjacks will be the No. 2 seed after sharing this year’s championship with Lamar, the top seed. Under Underwood’s tutelage, the Lumberjacks became the first Southland team to win 29 games in the regular season, matching the 1985 Louisiana Tech team that finished 29-3 after reaching the Sweet 16. SFA finished a perfect 15-0 at home for the second consecutive year and has run its home-court win streak to 33 games, which is tied with Duke for the best in Division I. The team’s 26-game overall win streak obliterated the former conference record of 19 set by Louisiana Tech in 1992-93 and 1993-94. SFA leads the nation with 14 road wins this season and their current 12-game road win streak is tied with Wichita State for the national lead. Underwood follows former SFA coach Danny Kaspar, who won the award last season, and is the fourth Lumberjack recipient of the honor. Kaspar was a two-time Southland coach of the year (2008 and 2013) and Ned Fowler claimed the honor in 1991. Lamar Removes Interim Tag Off Price: Tic Price has been named the head men’s basketball coach at Lamar, becoming the university’s 11th head coach, following a five-game stint as the interim coach to close out the 2013-14 season. A 32-year college coaching veteran, Price has spent 10 seasons as a head coach with nine combined NCAA and NIT appearances between stops at Memphis, McNeese State and New Orleans. His head coaching career began in 1994 at New Orleans. During his time at UNO, the Privateers won 20 games each season, and advanced to the 1996 NCAA Tournament and the 1997 NIT. Following his time at New Orleans, Price was hired as the head coach at Memphis where he spent two seasons as the Tigers head coach. Price posted a 30-27 record at Memphis, leading the team to the second round of the 1998 NIT. Price has a full understanding of the Southland Conference, after spending six seasons, including five as head coach at McNeese State. He was named associate head coach prior to the 2000-01 season when he helped the Cowboys produce the nation’s largest turnaround, going 22-9, winning a conference title and advancing to the NCAA tournament. The following season, Price was named head coach and led the Cowboys to a 20-win season, a Southland regular-season title and a berth in the 2002 NCAA tournament. The Cowboys won 74 games during Price’s five seasons in Lake Charles, La.last_img

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