The Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin continued their dominant season on the road against ACU in Moody Coliseum.
After falling behind 10 points early in the first half, SFA (27-3, 18-1 SLC) bounced back later in the game for a 77-72 victory Tuesday night. With the win, they finish the season undefeated in conference play on the road.
With nearly 3000 people in attendance, it marked the largest crowd in Moody Coliseum for a men’s basketball game in program history since keeping track of attendance numbers in 2006.
“First of all, I thought the crowd was unbelievable,” head coach Joe Golding said. “Credit to our students and the city of Abilene for coming out here. It truly was a division one atmosphere. It helped keep us in the game.”
The Wildcats (19-11, 14-5 SLC) jumped out to an early 29-19 advantage over the Lumberjacks. After a quick 30-second timeout, SFA was able to trim the lead down to four before halftime.
Senior guard Kevon Harris was instrumental for SFA throughout the game. Before fouling out in the final minutes, Harris posted a game-high 23 points on 6-12 shooting and six rebounds.
“I think Kevon is going to be the [Southland] player of the year,” Golding said. “I’m going to vote for him as [Southland] player of the year. I think he deserves it.”
Sophomore forward Clay Gayman led the way for the Wildcats. He finished with 17 points and five rebounds on 4-10 shooting but only scored a single point in the second half.
“In the second half they really honed in on me,” Gayman said. “They obviously watched tape and knew what we were gonna do. Credits to SFA, they’re one of the best teams in college basketball, and they did all the right things in the second half.”
The Wildcats’ lead quickly vanished after halftime. The Lumberjacks continued to take the ball inside on offense, extending their lead to as much as 15 with 10:23 remaining.
Despite the momentum on SFA’s side, the Wildcats marched back, cutting the lead to just two points with just 20 seconds remaining.
“We’re learning,” Golding said. “We really grew up tonight and we got better. When you play a team like that, you get better.”
The Lumberjacks ultimately won the game at the free throw line in the final seconds after multiple missed shot attempts by ACU.
The Wildcats were also without their starting sophomore forward Joe Pleasant (knee) Tuesday after injuring his knee against Central Arkansas Saturday. Looking ahead, his return is up in the air.
“On Joe, he’s day-to-day,” Golding said. “He hasn’t practiced yet, but we did get good news Monday; nothing is torn in his knee. I expect he’ll play before it’s all said and done.”
With the loss, Nicholls (20-10, 14-5 SLC) has a chance to clinch a double-bye in the Southland Conference Tournament Wednesday night against McNeese 14-15, 9-9 SLC). If the Wildcats win Saturday and Nicholls loses, ACU gets the double-bye.
The Wildcats wrap up their regular season Saturday on the road against Incarnate Word (9-20, 6-12 SLC) at 4:15 p.m.
“There’s no guarantees we see [SFA] again,” Golding said. “They have to win in Katy. They’ll have to win one to get to the championship, and we will have to win one or two. We just have to be ready.”