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Southland Notebook

January 21, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Southland Conference Notebook

by Jason Orts

Stephen F. Austin proves it is for real

The Lumberjacks, who were picked to finish in the middle of the Southland Conference pack at the beginning of the season, proved they are for real with victories over highly-regarded teams Lamar and Sam Houston to run their record to 7-0 in conference action.

The two wins give SFA a 10-game winning streak, dating back to Dec. 7, 2002, on the road at Texas Southern, an 80-75 Lumberjack loss.

SFA has been fairly dominant as well thus far in the conference season, as only two of its wins have been by fewer than 10 points, including the 77-70 overtime win over Sam Houston on Saturday. But the Lumberjacks have played five of their seven SLC tilts in Nacogdoches, with the only two road games coming against Southeastern Louisiana and Nicholls State, the league’s two worst teams.

This means that SFA will have to deal with eight more road games while only being home for five, but appear to be in good shape to finish the SLC schedule 10-0 at home, having taken care of the four teams occupying second-fifth.

Home cookin’

In the SLC this season, it is imperative for teams to be able to hold serve at home, because road wins have been hard to come by. In fact, the home team has won two of every three games thus far in conference play, 26 games to 13.

Also, four teams have recorded undefeated marks in conference home games thus far, led by the 5-0 mark posted by the Lumberjacks. Sam Houston and Southwest Texas are both 3-0, followed by Lamar, who has only played conference games in Beaumont, but has won both of them.

Only three teams are under .500 at home in SLC play, and not coincidentally, they are the three worst teams in the conference in Texas-San Antonio, Southeast Louisiana, and Nicholls State, who are a combined 3-7 at home and 5-17 overall.

UTSA loses Hurd

The Roadrunners, who at 2-4 in SLC play, have been a tremendous disappointment thus far this season, may have suffered its their greatest loss yet. LeRoy Hurd left in the second half of the 66-51 loss to McNeese State with a possible torn meniscus, an injury that would likely end his season.

Hurd, a transfer from the University of Miami, is currently the conference’s leading scorer, averaging 18.2 per game, and is fifth in the SLC in rebounding, grabbing seven boards per game.

This really spells trouble for the Roadrunners, a team that is having trouble scoring points anyway and even more trouble on the boards. UTSA is sixth in the league in scoring at just 67 points per outing, while it is the SLC’s worst in rebounding margin, losing the battle of the boards by an average of 6.5 per game.

Oh, by the way, the Roadrunners’ next opponent-Stephen F. Austin.

Speaking of which:

Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (11-3, 7-0 SLC)

The Lumberjacks started off the week with a 74-62 win over Lamar, which has possibly been the league’s most disappointing team. They continued to impress with the aforementioned 77-70 overtime win over Sam Houston State.

SFA is the most balanced team in the SLC offensively, as it is scoring a league-best 77 points per game despite not having anyone score more than the 12.5 points per outing Percy Green is averaging.

And a different player is stepping up every week for SFA. This time it was B. J. Banks, who is averaging just eight points per contest, led the Lumberjacks with 14 points against Lamar and had an even better outing against Sam Houston, scoring 20 points.

Sam Houston State Bearkats (9-5, 6-2 SLC)

After a 4-0 start to the conference season, the Bearkats have struggled a bit on the road, falling to Stephen F. Austin and Southwest Texas, two teams that have combined to post a 15-1 record in their respective home arenas.

But SHSU did post a nice road win during that time, defeating the Texas-Arlington Mavericks, 62-60, at Texas Hall.

The Bearkats finally get back home this week following the four-game roadie, taking on Louisiana-Monroe, who is suddenly back over .500 in SLC play at 4-3, and a Northwestern State team that looks to be headed in the right direction as well. So this week looks much more difficult that it did just about a week ago for SHSU.

Louisiana-Monroe Indians (6-8, 4-3 SLC)

The Indians took care of the easy ones last week, as they welcomed Nicholls State and Southeastern Louisiana to Monroe, beating them by a combined total of 30 points. But this week figures to be a little tougher for the Indians, as they travel to face Sam Houston and Lamar, two teams who will be anxious to get back home.

ULM has been an up-and-down team so far this season, and will be doing good just to split its two contests this week.

About the only constant for the Indians this season has been Kirby Lemons, who leads the league in rebounding at 9.6 boards per outing to go with his 16.6 points per game, the SLC’s second-best total. No other Indian is scoring in double figures per game this season.

Southwest Texas Bobcats (9-5, 4-3 SLC)

The Bobcats are possibly the best example of the home-court advantage that is being enjoyed by SLC teams this season, as SWT is 7-0 overall at Strahan Coliseum (3-0 in conference play) and 2-5 on the road (1-3 in SLC action).

SWT opened conference play with four straight on the road, defeating just Northwestern State, but since the Bobcats returned home, they have been dominant, running their winning streak in the ‘Nutt House’ (named after SWT head coach Dennis Nutt) to 11-games, dating back to last season.

Following wins over Sam Houston and Lamar, SWT made its strongest statement of the season, setting a school record for margin of victory against a conference foe with a 38-point (91-53) blasting of McNeese State, a team that had beaten SWT seven straight times.

This week will be an interesting one for the Bobcats, who travel to face Texas-Arlington before returning home for a battle with Texas-San Antonio. SWT will need to sweep those games to keep itself in the thick of the conference race.

McNeese State Cowboys (8-7, 4-4 SLC)

The Cowboys lost their fourth conference game last week, which is one more than they lost in each of the past two seasons and the fourth loss was an ugly one-the 38-point beating administered by Southwest Texas.

But the Cowboys rebounded nicely just two days later, travelling a little further down I-35, defeating Texas-San Antonio 66-51. McNeese actually led that game by just two with 6:30 to go, but went on a 15-2 run to finish the game, as the Roadrunners went cold without Hurd.

The Cowboys play only once this week, as they go on the road to face Nicholls State.

Texas-Arlington Mavericks (6-8, 3-3 SLC)

Just a week ago, the Mavericks were in third place and looking at two home games with a chance to get to 5-1 in SLC action. But UTA could not take advantage of being at home, falling to Lamar and Sam Houston last week, by a combined total of four points.

The Mavericks played very well defensively, giving up 62 points to Sam Houston and 52 to Lamar, but they simply could not get the ball into the basket, despite taking ten more shots than the Bearkats and 22 more than the Cardinals.

UTA will attempt to end its struggles this week, but will have to go through two of the SLC’s hottest teams to do so, as it will host Southwest Texas before heading to Nacogdoches to take on Stephen F. Austin.

Northwestern State Demons (3-10, 3-3 SLC)

The Demons climbed out of the battle for the conference cellar by defeating Nicholls State and Southeastern Louisiana last week and moved into a tie for the sixth and final position in the SLC tournament at this early stage.

The nation’s youngest team, Northwestern State appears to have some building blocks that will be around for a while, led by Clifton Lee, a freshman who ranks in the top fifteen in the SLC in scoring and rebounding, averaging 12.1 points and 6.3 boards per outing.

But now the Demons have to go on the road again and that has been a problem for them thus far this season, as they are 0-7 outside Natchitoches and they will be trying to improve on that mark against two very homesick teams in Lamar and Sam Houston.

Lamar Cardinals (6-8, 3-4 SLC)

The Cardinals have had a tough go of it so far in conference action, mostly due to the fact that they have played five of their seven games on the road, with three of them coming against the league’s best teams in Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, and Southwest Texas.

It is tough to tell how good Lamar is at home, since its only two games in Beaumont have come against Nicholls State and Southeastern Louisiana, both Cardinal wins. Despite having three preseason all-SLC picks (including honorable mention selections), Lamar has had trouble scoring points, as the Cardinals rank in the middle of the pack, scoring just 66 points per outing while giving up 68 per contest.

But now the Cardinals return home for four straight, starting this week with tilts against Northwestern State and Louisiana-Monroe, two teams that Lamar certainly has the talent to beat and get right back into the conference race.

Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners (5-8, 2-4 SLC)

The Roadrunners have been a huge disappointment so far this season. Even though they lost more talent to graduation than any other team in the SLC, they were predicted to be much better than they have been, and if Hurd is out for any time at all, UTSA could be in even greater danger of missing the conference tournament.

The Roadrunners only played once last week, falling to McNeese State at home and the road gets no easier this week. They will attempt to upend Stephen F. Austin before heading to San Marcos to try and end the Bobcats’ 11-game home winning streak.

Southeastern Louisiana Lions (4-11, 2-6 SLC)

The Lions started off the conference season 2-0, but since then have gone ice cold, hitting a six-game skid, including road outings last week to Northwestern State and Louisiana-Monroe.

But the Lions have been competitive, as only one of the six losses has come by more than ten points, a 65-50 loss to Texas-Arlington. Amir Abdur-Rahim continues to play solid basketball despite his team’s troubles, averaging 15.3 points per outing, good for fifth in the league.

Southeastern Louisiana is only in action once this week, and the Lions figure to end their losing streak, as they get their home game with Nicholls State. And that leads to…

Nicholls State Colonels (3-13, 1-7 SLC)

The Colonels went on the road last week, falling to Northwestern State and Louisiana-Monroe. They will return home for their only action this week, taking on the McNeese State Cowboys at home.

Nicholls State has been anemic on the offensive end all season, scoring just over 50 points per game and are the worst shooting team in the league, from the field and from the free throw line. The Colonels are the only team in the league without a player averaging double figures in scoring.


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