Whenever we can, we like to get the perspective from the opposing team’s fan sites or beat writers. For UAB vs. Stephen F. Austin we are fortunate enough to have some questions answered from two of the Jacks’ fan driven sites — LumberjackFans.com and SFASawmill.com.
This will be the third meeting between the two teams with UAB holding the 2-0 series advantage over the Jacks. UAB won in 1996 at home under Murry Bartow and last season at home under Jerod Haase.
Our first Q&A will come from Isaac with SFASawmill.com.
1. Though it’s early in the season, are you starting to see differences in first year coach Kyle Keller’s philosophy or style than what was implemented under Brad Underwood?
The defensive philosophy is similar. It has been for three head coaches at SFA now with Danny Kaspar first bringing in the high-intensity, frequent fouling, attack the ball, style of defense. Kyle Keller noted after he was hired that while he was an assistant at Texas A&M they refused to even scrimmage against SFA because the Lumberjacks don’t let people run their offense. Brad Underwood and now Keller have really continued that emphasis.
It’s been hard to gauge exactly what this offense will look like when the Jacks finally find some rhythm. It’s clearly different than the motion offense Underwood ran the past three years though. Keller said early this last week that his staff is making an effort to simplify things a little bit after the rough start. Offense is definitely a work in progress at the moment.
2. Who or whom has been the surprise of the season so for the Jacks?
A number of the newcomers (that’s most of the team, by the way) could be a surprise since there’s always uncertainty in new personnel. But to me, it’s actually been the only senior on the team, point guard Dallas Cameron. He only averaged 18 minutes per game last year as mostly a defensive specialist.
Mostly by necessity with an inexperienced roster, Keller has thrust him into a big role this season and he’s handled it nicely. He’s played the one and two guard positions at times this year, his 46% three-point shooting blows his career numbers out of the water and he’s averaging almost 12 points per game (up from 3.5 a year ago). He’s had some turnover issues but so has the entire team.
3. Has this team began to create an identity offensively?
In short, the answer is no. The turnover issues have been well documented (there isn’t a DI team in the nation with more per game), but the shooting hasn’t been terrible. When it clicks, if it clicks, this team really does have some exciting talent. In flashes they’ve looked unbeatable – and then for stretches it’s been almost impossible to watch
Keller promised after the game Saturday that his team will be doing “a lot of running” until the careless ball handling is mended. Any game now, I expect them to suddenly put together 40 minutes of competent offensive basketball. Maybe this is the week?
4. Describe the home court advantage for Stephen F. Austin. Is there a rowdy student section?
SFA is rarely tested at home. There have been a couple exceptions to this lately but most home games over the past few years have been a snooze-fest by halftime. That said, the fans do show up fairly well (very, very well compared to peers) and on a number of occasions with the game on the line, William R. Johnson Coliseum can get very loud. I imagine it would be louder more frequently if the UAB’s of the world were willing to travel to Nacogdoches more often.
The early-season Longwood game during ESPN’s tip-off marathon was probably between 85-90% capacity and when the game ended up coming down to the wire, the environment was awesome. It’s been largely the same story in just about every other close game at home in my memory.
To be frank, there just haven’t been a lot of competitive home games the last few years. When a Southland rival comes into town (Sam Houston or Northwestern State, specifically) it’ll get rowdy whether the score is close or not. Sometimes it can be hard to get up and scream when you’re facing Centenary College though.
5. Which UAB player or players do you think could give the Jacks trouble and why?
I’m sure any Lumberjack who watched last season’s collapse in Birmingham still has a few nightmares featuring Chris Cokley. Coupled with the fact that SFA has struggled for stretches protecting the paint, I could see him having another special game on Wednesday.
The matchup between Cokley and SFA’s TJ Holyfield/Leon Gilmore will be one to follow throughout the game. Holyfield had a much smaller role as a freshman during the game last season but there’s some familiarity there. Gilmore has battled issues with his back this last week and may not be operating at 100% – but when he’s on he can be a special player on the defensive side.
Whoever gets the best of that matchup has a leg up in this game.