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Southland Conference Notebook

March 10, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Southland Conference Notebook

by Scott Allen

The Southland Conference tournament gets under way this Monday with a pair of first-round games on the campuses of Texas-Arlington and Southwest Texas. Regular season champion Sam Houston State and second-place finisher Stephen F. Austin received first-round byes and will host second-round games on Wednesday. The Bearkats will play host to the lowest remaining seed while the Lumberjacks host the highest remaining seed. The SLC Championship game will be played Friday afternoon.

Monday’s Games:

No. 6 McNeese State at No. 3 Texas-Arlington

McNeese State squeaked into the six-team tournament field with a 72-62 victory over Lamar to close out the regular season. If the Cowboys are to successfully defend their 2002 SoCon championship, they will first have to get past Texas-Arlington on the road, a team they lost to twice during the regular season. Meanwhile, the Mavericks enter Monday night’s game winners of four straight, including an 85-84 double-overtime win against Louisiana-Monroe last week. UTA was streaky throughout the SLC regular season, following up a five-game mid-season losing streak with a six-game winning streak and yet another two-game slide before their most recent run. The Mavericks finished 7-3 on their home court in conference play while McNeese State was 3-7 on the road.

Texas-Arlington boasts the best scoring defense in the conference, allowing just over 62 points per game and the Maverick’s plus-5.6 rebounding margin is also tops in the SLC. Derrick Obasohan paces UTA with 11.4 points per game while Roy Johnson (11.1 points per game), Keith Howell (11.0 points per game) and Mack Callier (9.8 points per game) round out one of the most well balanced offensive attacks in the SLC.

The Cowboys rely primarily on the hot-hand of guard Jason Coleman. Coleman leads McNeese State with 14.7 points per game and led the SLC with 80 3-pointers made.

Demond Williams is the only other Cowboy averaging in double figures in scoring with 10.4 points per game and he also leads the team in rebounding with 6.2 per game. McNeese State shot 44.7% from the field during the regular season and has not been held under 40% since a 56-52 loss to UTA on February 10. The Cowboys shot 37.7% in that game and were held to 36.4% shooting in the teams’ first meeting.

Look for Texas-Arlington to try to establish a slow pace on its home floor, working the ball inside to Obasohan and Johnson. A defensive struggle would favor the Mavericks. As few teams can match up with the Mavericks inside or on the glass, McNeese State needs the three-point shot to start falling after shooting just 17-for-58 (29%) from outside in its last three games.

Prediction: Texas-Arlington 66, McNeese State 59

No. 5 Louisiana-Monroe at No. 4 Southwest Texas

Making its conference best 21st straight tournament appearance, Louisiana-Monroe sets its sights on its seventh SLC Championship. Meanwhile, Southwest Texas will be playing in its seventh straight SLC tournament, the second longest streak in the league. Louisiana-Monroe enters the postseason having suffered two straight losses. Meanwhile, the Bobcats are coming off a 75-70 loss to Southeastern Louisiana in its regular season finale. ULM and SWT both finished 10-10 in conference play and split their two games during the regular season with the home team winning each time. The Bobcats finished 8-2 at home in the SLC while the Indians were 4-6 away from home.

Southwest Texas’ offense has relied on the inside presence of junior forward Jeremiah Coleman and the outside shooting of guards Terry Conerway and Brady Richeson all season and the tournament should be no different. Coleman averaged 24 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks in the last week of the season. Meanwhile, Conerway leads the Bobcats with 15 points per game and shot at a 40.6% clip from three-point land during the regular season. Richeson was not far behind, connecting on 36.7% of his three-point attempts. The cool demeanor of a senior point guard is invaluable come postseason and the Bobcats have one in David Sykes. The Duncanville, Texas native has poured in 10 points while dishing out 4.6 assists per game.

The Indians’ success or lack thereof rests on the broad shoulders of senior forward Kirby Lemons. The preseason second-team all-conference selection averaged 17.5 points and 8 rebounds in the last two games and finishes the year as the only SLC player averaging a double-double. Lemons finished third in scoiring (16.5 points per game) and first in rebounding with 10.1 boards per game. Mark Keith averages 9.4 points per game for the Indians.

SWT and ULM boast the third and fourth scoring offenses in the SLC, respectively, and were involved in a 102-86 shootout earlier this season. ULM finished last in the conference in scoring defense, giving up 75.1 points per game. The Indians are also the worst free throw shooting team in the SLC, a stat that does not bode well come tournament time in any conference.

The key to the game could very well be perimeter shooting. The Bobcats knock down a conference-best 8 treys per game and ULM has struggled to defend the outside shot at times this season. Only Southeastern Louisiana allowed their opponents a higher three-point shooting percentage. In SWT’s 102-86 victory over ULM earlier this season, the Bobcats shot 12-25 from beyond the arc and hit 32 of 42 free throw attempts. If Conerway and Richeson get hot, it could mean a quick exit for the Indians.

Prediction: Southwest Texas 79, Louisiana-Monroe 76


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