“Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”― Sun Tzu,
If you’re a casual basketball fan you probably knew little to nothing about the Lumberjacks before their run in the NCAA tournament last year.
The crew from Nacogdoches were the 14 seed paired against Bob Huggins’ 3rd seeded West Virginia team. Coach Brad Underwood, who is now at Oklahoma St., willed his team to a shocking 14-point victory before falling to a Notre Dame last second tip in the following game.
Months before, the Blazer’s hosted Stephen F. Austin on December 29 in what was one of the most exciting games in Bartow Arena all season.
Unfortunately, due to the 2:30 weekday tip, few were there to witness the 17-point deficit the Blazers erased in the first half to give UAB the lead for good. Following the loss to UAB, SFA went on to win 21 straight games.
Like the Auburn preview, I recommend you forget what you saw from the SFA team that night in December and in the NCAA tournament. There are many key players that graduated, as well as current players missing due to injury.
Take a look at the stat sheet from SFA’s loss to Notre Dame in the Round of 32 and their loss at Arkansas last week to get a feel for their roster turnover.
SFA’s three outstanding seniors, Pinkney, Floyd, and Walkup accounted for more than half of the Lumberjack’s 66 points in their loss to UAB last season.
The two key returners for SFA from the NCAA tournament and UAB games are Ty Charles and TJ Holyfield.
Ty Charles logged 2 points in 26 minutes in the Lumberjacks opening loss at Kentucky and has been sidelined since due to a back injury. I wouldn’t quite equate the effect of his absence to Nick Norton’s, but I’ll say it’s not far from it.
Charles averaged just a shade under 10 points per game and hit 22 3-pointers last season. He’s a very athletic and quick 6-foot-5 forward who does a little bit of everything well. SFA would be an entirely different animal if he comes available for Wednesday’s game.
TJ Holyfield has evolved in to the go-to interior option for SFA averaging 12.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. He’s a touch heavier than Chris Cokley at 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds, but has a very similar game to his. His hands and post game are solid and his footwork is coming along in his sophomore year. One big difference in their games is Holyfield’s ability to hit the 3-pointer having converted 8-of-17 this season.
Along with Holyfield, 6-foot-4 shooting guard Ivan Canete and 6-foot-3 point guard Dallas Cameron are SFA’s trio of double-digit scorers.
Canete is a community college transfer in his first season with SFA and he is leading the team in scoring with 13.7 per game. He was 6-of-8 from behind the arc and had 28 points in a road loss to UL-Monroe on November 28.
The final double-digit scorer for SFA is 6-foot-3 senior point guard Dallas Cameron. The senior is averaging 11.7 points per game and leads the team with 12 made 3-pointers this season.
Though his career stats aren’t eye popping, Cameron has 5 NCAA tournament game appearances on his resume. You could say he’s their Denzell Watts.
It’s worth noting that freshman guard Aaron Augustin is leading the Lumberjacks in assists with 19 and in some cases has been running the point while sharing the floor with Cameron.
4 Things To Watch For
- Leon Gilmore – It’s just a matter of time before the 6-f00t-7 junior forward becomes one the Lumberjacks best players this season. He had a double-double against Kentucky to start the year, but has since cooled off. He’s the type of player who can take over a game if given a little bit of confidence.
- Perimeter Defense – Eight made 3-pointers is in my opinion the most this UAB team can give up to have a chance against good teams. George Washington was 8-of-27 from behind the arc in the Blazers best win of the season. In all of UAB’s losses the opponent has hit double-digit 3-pointers.
- Turnovers – Both SFA and UAB struggle in this department. The Lumberjacks rank dead last in Division 1 in turnover percentage giving it up 31.1 percent of the time. In their loss to Kentucky to start the season the Lumberjacks turned the ball over 28 times. UAB’s hasn’t turned the ball over nearly as much, but when they do it’s seemingly been at the most inopportune times.
- SFA’s Home Win Streak – The Lumberjacks have won 32 straight home games, which is third most in Division 1. This wouldn’t be the first time UAB has snapped a 30-plus game win streak having ended Old Dominion’s 32 game run last season.