Lumberjacks roll UT Arlington advance to next

KATY, Texas – The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks came into Merrell Center bruised and battered as injuries and illness hit the squad to the point where coach Danny Kaspar shortened Tuesday's practice. Undaunted, the second-seeded Lumberjacks began defense of their title as they routed seventh-seed UT Arlington 77-54, advancing to Thursday's semifinal round. "I told them now's not the time to feel sorry for yourselves," said Kaspar, whose team improved to 22-8 on the season. The Lumberjacks played without starting guard Eric Bell and backup center Will Reinke, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last week. Forwards Jereal Scott and Orren Tims had their practice time shortened due to illness. It didn't matter, as SFA torched a Mavericks team that entered the game with the second-best field goal percentage in the conference. The Lumberjacks hit 58 percent from the field, including 62 percent in the second half in which they broke the game open. UT Arlington (16-14) had turned a 20-point first half deficit to 38-27 on a Marquez Haynes basket with 18:14 remaining. The Mavs appeared to be ready to move closer, but the Lumberjacks proceeded to floor them with a 17-0 run in a span of 5:50 that ended any chance of a comeback. SFA guard Eddie Williams scored 13 of his game-high 22 points during the run, including 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions. "The last time I remembered being in a zone like that was in high school," he said. I was just focused. There's not time to be tired." Williams had more than enough strength on the defensive end to contain Haynes, the Southland's Player of the Year, to 17 points on 6 of 17 shooting. Haynes was held scoreless in the final 18 minutes as Williams' tenacious defensive effort frustrated the Mavericks' leading scorer. "Our defensive game plan was 'Eddie, go guard him,'" said Kaspar. Eddie is the best defensive player in the league. The Lumberjacks also got a significant contribution from Tims, who came off the bench with 17 points and four rebounds. Tims hit his first six shots, fueling SFA's opening 29-9 run in which they connected on 12 of their first 14 shots from the field. It was an impressive effort from a player who had been bothered by a respiratory ailment for much of the last week. "I didn't know what to expect from him," Kaspar said. He's a hard matchup for their bigs. Denzel Barnes, filling in for Bell, had 11 points and six assists for the Lumberjacks. The Mavericks shot just 34 percent and were out-rebounded by a 42-17 margin as they were never able to develop an extended stretch of solid play.

"We just ran into a buzzsaw today," said UT Arlington coach Scott Cross. They beat us in every aspect of the game. Dwight Gentry scored 12 points for the Mavericks, while Brandon Long added 10. Haynes leaves UT Arlington with 1173 career points. "I just wish I could have done more to help end it the way everyone wanted to," said Haynes.