Profiting off a series of last minute possessions would have given Sam Houston State enough to upset Stephen F. Austin, but lockdown base perimeter coverage and base strength allowed the Lumberjacks to edge out a 50-44 win Wednesday night at Johnson Coliseum.
SFAs slow play development kept SHSUs defense guessing as the Lumberjacks ball movement congested the Bearkats man coverage.
SFA controlled game speed by draining the shot clock with strong ball movement before attacking seams or shooting from the perimeter. Lumberjack forward Jacob Parker kindled momentum sinking his first three-pointer in the last minutes of the first half and followed with two long shots and a second half three for 10 points.
They made a big shot with 2:36 to go, a three pointer over there with Parker on the corner and then the layup by Bateman to put them back up by five, SHSU coach Jason Hooten said.
After an exchange of defensive fouls, SFA took an early lead drawing two consecutive fouls from Bearkat center Michael Holyfield. The Lumberjacks capitalized off trips to the line shooting 84 percent on the night.
Nathaniel Mason broke SHSUs stagnant offensive play with a strong attack to the basket to draw the foul; Mason would remain the Bearkats soul scorer midway through the first half before James Thomas evened the score at eight with a 15 foot shot.
I hope we can get that kind of effort out of [Mason] because hes more than capable playing that way. Hes a great athlete with great talent. The only thing keeping him from doing that on a nightly basis is himself, Hooten said.
Mason finished the night with 14 points and five rebounds after a weak performance against Central Arkansas Saturday night with only three points.
He knows he needs to be consistent with his effort, he knows he doesnt need to be soft with the ball and he knows he needs to play defense, Hooten said.
Forwards Terrance Motley and Holyfield struggled to penetrate the paint and attack the basket with the lockdown coverage of Taylor Smith maintaining strong pressure and controlling the paint. Smith troubled Motley and Holyfield preventing any consistent Bearkat pressure under the basket.
Obviously it was a goal of ours to stop Smithits pretty tough when you did a really good job on a guy who still gets a double-double, Hooten said.
SHSU regained momentum with five minutes left in the game breaking hard in the paint and forcing SFA to waste timeouts to stay within five points.
SFA reestablished their perimeter shooting with Parker draining his second three with 2:30 left, to give the Lumberjacks a six point lead (46-40). Mason sinks late three to keep the Bearkats within six but was unable to contain Smith and guard Hal Bateman in the short game.
The Bearkats will square off against Eastern Washington in Huntsville Saturday at 3 p.m.