KATY, Texas – The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks were hampered by a second-half scoring drought and despite holding Lamar to under 60 points for the fifth time all season were eliminated in a 55-44 loss to the Cardinals on Thursday in the semifinals of the Southland Conference Tournament at the Leonard E. Merrell Center.
Taylor Smith finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, but 10 of those points came in the first half and SFA (20-12) hit just eight of its 32 shots in the second half (25 percent), with four of those makes coming in the game's final three minutes, and could not survive an 11-minute span in the second period without a field goal.
Lamar (22-11) advances to the title game of the Southland Conference Tournament to face the winner of No. 1 UT Arlington and No. 4 McNeese State on Saturday.
The ‘Jacks, who took a 10-point win over the Cardinals a month ago in Beaumont, led by a point with five minutes to play in the first half but LU closed the first period on an 10-2 run to end the half up 26-19 and broke the game open with a 14-0 run in the second half that lasted from the 17:05 mark to the 6:19 mark of the second period.
Desmond Haymon joined Smith in double figures with 11 points, including two of SFA's three triples on the night; however, the Cardinal guard trio of Anthony Miles, Devon Lamb and Mike James combined to outscore the Lumberjack starting perimeter players 41-16 on the night. The ‘Jacks finished just 3-of-13 from beyond the arc with each of those triples coming in the game's final three minutes of play.
Jereal Scott also finished with nine points and eight rebounds in his final game as a Lumberjack.
Still, SFA dominated the glass 40-29 on the night, including ripping down 16 offensive boards and outscoring the Cardinals by six in the paint. But LU was able to force 14 turnovers while just turning it over eight times itself and converted on eight fast-break points by its guards.
The loss puts an end to the Lumberjack season, one that saw them earn their fourth 20-win season in the last five years.