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Southland Notebook

December 20, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments



Southland Notebook

by Jason Orts

SLC off to slow start

The Southland Conference has had a bit of a rough start to the season, as it is just 14-41 this season against division I foes and 29-41 overall. In fact, only three teams (Southwest Texas, McNeese State, and Stephen F. Austin) are over .500 so far this season.

Despite the slow start, several surprises have emerged this season. Felton Freeman of Sam Houston was not mentioned on the all-SLC preseason teams, but is leading the conference in scoring. Jeremiah Coleman of Southwest Texas has added a new dimension to the Bobcat attack with his all-around game, and is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder.

Actually, Southwest Texas’ fast start has been a surprise in itself, as it was picked to finish in the middle of the pack this season, but it has gotten solid play from several junior college transfers, such as Coleman and Terry Conerway to start strong.

Another surprise is that Nicholls State has already won two games this season. Okay, so neither of those wins came against a division I opponent, but the Colonels only won one game all of last season, so they will take any wins they can get.

Conference action just around the corner

The SLC will begin its conference season on Dec. 28, and there are some very interesting matchups right away. Southwest Texas will travel to take on McNeese State in a meeting between the two best teams thus far in the league and could establish a very early frontrunner for the title.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Nicholls State will take on the only team that it was able to defeat last season – Southeastern Louisiana – on the conference’s opening day as well. Lamar and Sam Houston also square off that day, in a meeting between teams that were second and third in the preseason rankings, so the early conference matchups have a lot of luster.

Southwest Texas (5-1)

The Bobcats are off to their best start since joining the NCAA division I ranks in 1984 and have posted a league-best three wins over division I teams, including quality wins over the Universities of Houston and New Orleans.

The main reason for SWT’s early success has been its defense. The Bobcats finished near the bottom of the league in all defensive categories a year ago, but are fourth thus far in scoring defense and are holding opponents to just 39 percent shooting, second in the league.

Junior college transfers Jeremiah Coleman and Terry Conerway are SWT’s top two scorers, averaging 15.5 and 13 points per game, respectively. David Sykes is second in the SLC in assists and leads the league in steals, posting nearly three per game.

The Bobcats will begin a five-game road trip with a match up with the Arkansas Razorbacks before opening conference action on Dec. 28 in Lake Charles, La., taking on a McNeese State team that is on a 26-game home winning streak.

McNeese State (4-3)

The Cowboys lost on Thursday night to the number ten Texas Longhorns, 97-59, and now have a nine-day layoff before starting conference action at home taking on Southwest Texas. McNeese State was the league’s highest scoring team going into Thursday night’s game, averaging 81 points per outing.

But the Cowboys are only eighth in scoring defense and seventh in field goal defense, largely due to having played three very good teams, in Mississippi State, who beat the Cowboys in last year’s NCAA tournament, LSU, and Texas.

But while McNeese has yet to post a marquee win this season, they are still going to be tough during the conference season, because of proven players such as Jason Coleman and Demond Williams, who both are averaging double digits.

Stephen F. Austin (4-3)

The Lumberjacks are over .500 so far this season, but have only beaten a single division I foe, going 1-3 against such opponents.

While Stephen F. Austin is the best shooting team in the SLC, converting on 52 percent of its shots from the floor and 76 percent from the line, they are second to last in rebounding. Following the 103-79 win over Jackson State Thursday night, the Lumberjacks will travel to meet Louisiana-Monroe in their conference opener, Dec. 28.

The Lumberjacks are also tied atop the conference in scoring defense, giving up an average of 67.8 points per outing.

Percy Green, who led the team in scoring last season, is doing the same so far this year, averaging 12.7 points per game and is shooting 58 percent from the floor. Green is joined by Antonio Burks, who tallies 11 points and leads the team with five boards per game and shoots 57 percent.

Texas-San Antonio (3-3)

The Roadrunners lost two first-team all-SLC selections from last season in McEverett Powers and Devin Brown, but have managed to stay competitive early in the season. Texas-San Antonio is the only team to have defeated a school from the Big 12 conference in Texas A&M. The SLC is 1-8 overall against the Big 12 this season.

Ike Akotaboi is tied for second in the conference in scoring, averaging 17.8 points per contest, leading a young team that is in the middle of the pack in nearly every statistical category. LeRoy Hurd, a transfer from the University of Miami is complementing Akotaboi with 16.7 points of his own while leading the team grabbing 6.2 rebounds per game as well.

Texas-San Antonio will travel to take on UNC-Wilmington in its next game, a rematch of a 14-point Roadrunner loss in San Antonio last month.

Sam Houston State (2-3)

The Bearkats boast the top scorer in the league in Felton Freeman, who is averaging 19 points per game and is shooting a sizzling 73 percent from the floor. Donald Cole is tied for second, tallying 17.8 per game. Cole is also third in the conference in rebounding, grabbing 7.8 boards per game, while Robert Shannon leads the SLC in assists with 6.25 per contest.

Sam Houston is tied for the league lead in scoring defense, allowing 67.8 points per game and are third in scoring, averaging 79.2 points per outing. The Bearkats are shooting 50 percent from the floor as a team, which is good for second in the league, but are the SLC’s worst free throw shooting team, at 58 percent.

Sam Houston is leading the conference in blocked shots (6.25 per game), assists (19.75 per game), and steals (12.5 per game).

The Bearkats will take on Texas-Dallas on Saturday before opening the conference schedule at McNeese State Dec. 30.

Texas-Arlington (3-4)

Following an embarrassing 56-point loss to Creighton in the season opener, the Mavericks turned around the next night and defeated Alabama State, 59-47. But Alabama State is the only division I team that Texas-Arlington has been able to defeat so far, with the other two wins coming against division II schools.

The Mavericks have three players averaging in double figures in scoring in Keith Howell (13 points per game), Derrick Obasohan (11.3 per game), and Mack Collier (10.1 per game). Collier is also the team’s leading rebounder and is seventh in the league, pulling down 6.4 boards per game.

Texas-Arlington is currently ninth in the conference in both scoring and rebounding, which has contributed to its slow start. The Mavericks will go on the road to take on New Mexico State on Dec. 23 and will open their conference schedule at home on Dec. 28, facing Texas-San Antonio.

Lamar (2-4)

The Cardinals have yet to lose on their home floor this season, but they have yet to win on the road. That could have something to do with their opponents though, defeating Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Loyola-New Orleans at home and losing to Pacific, Rice, Texas Southern, and Wichita State on the road.

Lamar has the SLC’s best field goal defense, allowing just 36 percent of their opponents shots to go down so far this season and are the league’s best rebounding team, averaging just shy of 43 boards per game.

Demany Hendrix and Ron Austin lead the Lamar offensive attack, averaging 15.4 and 14.4 points per game, respectively. Lewis Arline is second in the league, grabbing 9.8 boards per contest and Jason Grant is second in blocked shots (2.4 per game).

Lamar will take on Texas-Pan American on Saturday before opening SLC action on the road at Sam Houston on Dec. 28.

Louisiana-Monroe (2-4)

The Indians have played five games against division I opponents, but have only been victorious in one (a 90-79 win over Texas Christian). They have lost to Centenary twice, as well as Baylor and Mississippi.

Partly due to the strength of its schedule, Louisiana-Monroe has the worst scoring defense in the league, giving up 81.7 points per contest, but is tops in the conference in rebounding margin, averaging 4.3 more boards than its opponents.

Kirby Lemons is the only player in the SLC averaging a double double per game (17.7 points, 11.3 rebounds). Reggie Griffin and Mark Keith are also averaging in double figures in scoring, each averaging 11.7 points per game.

The Indians will hit the road to take on Texas A&M on Sunday, before traveling for a Dec. 30 meeting with Nicholls State.

Nicholls State (2-5)

The Colonels have already doubled their win total from last season, defeating Loyola-New Orleans and Southern University.

But while Nicholls State has played fairly well defensively, ranking third in scoring defense, it still has struggled scoring, averaging only 47 points per game, good for last in the league and is shooting just 34 percent from the floor, also last in the SLC.

Earnest Porter is the only Colonel averaging in double figures, scoring 11.2 points per outing and also leads Nicholls State in rebounding, with 6.7 per game.

The Colonels will take on Mississippi Saturday and will open SLC play with Louisiana-Monroe at home.

Southeastern Louisiana (2-5)

The Lions have started the season with a tough schedule, taking on five division I foes, including a game against number three Pittsburgh, going 0-5 in those games. Their only wins thus far came against Belhaven and Loyola-New Orleans.

They simply have not been able to put anything together as they rank at or near the bottom of almost every statistical category. While Amir Abdur-Rahim and Marcus Smith are among the league’s top ten scorers, no Lion is in the top 20 in rebounding.

Southeastern Louisiana will have a 10-day layoff, before playing its first SLC game of the year at Nicholls State on Dec. 28.

Northwestern State (0-6)

The Demons are the only SLC team to have played only division I opponents this season, beginning with a hard-fought 60-54 loss to New Mexico in an historically tough place to play, “The Pit.” Northwestern State played its first five games on the road, before returning home and falling in overtime to Grambling.

The Demons are second in rebounding thus far, but have not been able to do much with the boards, and are in the bottom half in the league in most categories. Clifton Lee and Byron Allen are tied for the team lead in scoring (12 points per game) and are also the top two on the squad in rebounding.

Northwestern State will have two weeks off before taking on Southeastern Louisiana on Dec. 30 in its conference opener.

     

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